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Two Sheriff's Deputies To Be Sentenced For Beating Mentally Ill Inmate And Faking Reports

Twin Towers Correctional Facilities. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
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Two Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies are expected to be sentenced on Monday for beating a mentally ill inmate at the Twin Towers Correctional Facility in 2010. Bryan Brunsting, 31, and Jason Branum, 35, were found guilty earlier this year for conspiracy to violate the inmate's civil rights, depriving him of rights under color of authority, and producing falsified records to cover up the incident, according to the L.A. Times.

Much of the case focused on allegations made by former sheriff's deputy Joshua Sather, who was then a new recruit in 2010. He said that, within days of arriving on the job at the correctional facility, Brunsting told him that an inmate, Philip Jones, was acting out of line and that, "We're going to teach him a lesson." Sather said that, at first, he punched Jones several times but stopped because the inmate wasn't resisting. Other deputies then descended on Jones and allegedly kicked and pepper-sprayed him.

Sather also claimed that, after the attack, the deputies got together and worked on an alibi that they later put down in a falsified report.

A release by U.S. Attorney Eileen M. Decker said that, "The rookie deputy testified that he was told what to say and how to write his report. As prosecutors argued at trial, the reports submitted by Brunsting and the rookie were strikingly similar, and were written to justify the use of force by falsely claiming that the victim had attempted to punch the rookie."

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Brunsting still faces charges for another alleged use-of-force incident in 2009 at Twin Towers; he was accused of choking an inmate and writing a false report under the name of another deputy.

Lawyers for Brunsting and Branum have relied on character witnesses to mitigate the claims. Brunsting's lawyers said that, in his nine-year career, Brunsting had volunteered roughly 300 hours to work in undercover vice operations. Branum's attorney said that, while serving with the Army in Iraq, Branum had ordered fellow soldiers to not fire on Iraqi civilians who'd ignored a curfew mandate.

This case was exposed as part of an in-depth federal investigation that reviewed allegations of abuse and corruption in L.A. County jails. In 2013, 18 members of the sheriff's department (including Brunsting and Branum) were charged with a variety of crimes that were related to the investigation, reports KTLA. Aside from allegations of abuse, prosecutors said that top brass at the department was aiding in the cover up of the incidents. This April, former Undersheriff Paul Tanaka was convicted of conspiracy and obstruction of justice. He was later sentenced to five years in prison. Sheriff Lee Baca, who was in charge during Brunsting and Branum's attack, is expected to go to trail soon for his involvement with an alleged cover-up. His attorneys claim that Alzheimer's disease may have led him to unwittingly lie to federal investigators.

Update [12:58]:

According to a release from Decker's office, Brunsting received a 21-month prison term, and Branum was sentenced to five months in custody.

Decker said that while both men engaged in a "vicious, premeditated" attack on Jones, "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."

U.S. District Judge George Wu ordered that the two men could remain free pending their appeals, reports the L.A. Times.

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