After viciously assaulting a mentally ill inmate and attempting to cover up the abuse, two former Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department (LASD) deputies were sentenced to federal prison this week for violating his civil rights. Due to an FBI investigation into rampant corruption and misconduct within the LASD, at least 20 sheriff’s officials have been convicted while former Sheriff Lee Baca faces several criminal charges against him.
On March 22, 2010, a rookie deputy named Joshua Sather was ordered by his training officer, Deputy Bryan Brunsting, to retaliate against an inmate at the Twin Towers Correctional Facility who had mouthed off at a jail employee. Sather later testified that he, Brunsting, and Deputy Jason Branum escorted a mentally ill inmate named Philip Jones to a locked hallway without surveillance cameras in order to “teach him a lesson.”
Realizing he had stepped into a trap, Jones tried to escape but the deputies immediately tackled him to the ground before repeatedly punching him, kicking his genitals, and pepper-spraying his face. Although Sather ceased striking Jones because the inmate was not resisting, Branum and Brunsting continued beating the helpless man without provocation.
As other deputies began to arrive, Sather was ordered to place Jones in handcuffs and transport him to the infirmary. After the incident, Sather, Branum, and Brunsting secretly met in order to concoct and coordinate a false narrative for the needless beating.
Although they agreed to falsely claim that Jones had attacked them first, Sather resigned from the department shortly after writing his fabricated incident report. Swept up in a federal investigation into widespread corruption and misconduct within the LASD, Branum and Brunsting were arrested in 2013 for violating Jones’ civil rights and conspiring to cover up the incident, while Sather agreed to work with the prosecution against his former colleagues.
“Both defendants engaged in a vicious, premeditated assault on an inmate,” stated U.S. Attorney Eileen Decker. “Deputy Brunsting’s conduct was even more egregious given that he was involved in the abuse of a second inmate, and he was training new deputies on how to violate inmates’ civil rights and get away with it. These defendants tarnished all law enforcement with their conduct, undermining the outstanding work by the vast majority of officers in the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department and the nation.”
On May 16, Branum and Brunsting were each found guilty of conspiracy to violate civil rights, deprivation of civil rights with bodily injury, and falsification of records for preparing reports that tried to justify their use of force against the victim. After his conviction, Brunsting reached a deal with prosecutors in which he admitted to choking out another inmate at Twin Towers on August 20, 2009, and writing a false report under the name of a rookie that he was training.
On Monday, U.S. District Judge George Wu sentenced Brunsting to 21 months in federal prison, while Branum only received a five-month sentence. Wu determined that the disgraced deputies could remain free pending their appeals.