June 18, 2024 The Best Source of News, Culture, Lifestyle for Culver City, Mar Vista, Del Rey, Palms and West Los Angeles

Two Sheriff’s Deputies Convicted of Conspiracy Against Rights

Two former Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies who beat and pepper-sprayed a mentally ill county jail inmate without provocation and then lied about it could be sentenced to federal prison Monday.

Bryan Brunsting and Jason “Johnson” Branum were convicted in May of three federal counts — conspiracy against rights, deprivation of rights under color of law and falsification of records — in connection with the assault six years ago at the Twin Towers Correctional Facility. Jurors reached the verdict after about 90 minutes of deliberation.

Although the convictions carry decades-long possible prison sentences, prosecutors are asking the judge to impose eight years at most for Brunsting and around 18 months for Branum.

The case was one of several trials in Los Angeles federal court stemming from the FBI’s multi-year investigation into brutality and other misconduct in the sheriff’s department.

Prosecutors said the beating of pretrial detainee Philip Jones in a surveillance-free hallway at Twin Towers on March 22, 2010, was designed to both punish the inmate for “disrespecting” a jail employee and to teach a rookie officer — whom Brunsting was training — a lesson about how the jail really worked.

“They kicked him, struck him, sprayed him with OC (pepper) spray,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Lindsey Greer Dotson told jurors, adding that Jones, who suffers from schizophrenia and hears voices, “wasn’t kicking, punching, swinging” or in any way fighting back.

The deputies then concocted a phony story that Jones was combative in order to explain the assault in a report that could have been used to refer the inmate for criminal prosecution.

Defense attorney Richard Hirsch countered that the inmate truly had become dangerous and a legal amount of force was necessary to control him. He told the jury that the only injury suffered by Jones was eye irritation from the pepper spray.

Neither defendant, nor Jones, took the stand during the weeklong trial. However, the prosecution had a key witness in ex-deputy trainee Joshua Sather.

Sather, who quit the department immediately following the Jones assault after a crisis of conscience, testified that Brunsting and Branum beat Jones until he was “screaming and crying” and then fabricated reports to cover up the assault.

Sather also told the downtown jury that he saw Brunsting “spread (the victim’s) legs and kick the inmate in his private parts.”

Brunsting, now 31, was Sather’s training officer at the county lockup on a floor housing mentally ill and suicidal inmates.

At one point, Sather testified, Brunsting told him that Jones had disobeyed an order and deputies would now teach the prisoner “a lesson.”

Brunsting and Branum, 35, were among more than a dozen sheriff’s officials to be tried by federal authorities in the jails investigation.

The probe reached the department’s highest offices. Ex-Sheriff Lee Baca faces trial on corruption charges next month while his former second-in- command, Paul Tanaka, was convicted of obstruction of justice charges and is appealing his five-year sentence.

 

Jail

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