Two Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies face up to 40 years in federal prison after being convicted on Monday for the beating of a mentally ill inmate and a subsequent cover up.
Bryan Brunsting and Jason Branum are among the latest to be convicted of the more than 20 current or former sheriff’s employees charged in connection with a federal abuse and corruption probe into the department.
The beating occurred on March 10, 2010 at Twin Towers Correctional Facility where a former deputy trainee said Brunsting had told him that an inmate identified as Phillip Jones had left his cell without permission and disrespected staff.
The trainee, whose testimony was used to procure the convictions, said Brunsting told him that he was going to “teach [Jones] a lesson,” before he and Branum beat and pepper-sprayed the unresisting inmate until he was “screaming and crying.”
The trainee, Joshua Sather, also testified that he saw Brunsting “spread [Jones’] legs and kick the inmate in his private parts.” As a result of the incident, Sather said he immediately quit his job and left the department.
Prosecutors said on Monday that the deputies attacked Jones in a locked hallway of the jail that didn’t have surveillance cameras and were attempting to teach deputy trainee Sather a lesson.
“That lesson was simple: This is how you beat an inmate,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Brandon Fox told jurors. “This is how things are done at Twin Towers. It was as much a lesson as much as it was a test.”
During the four days of testimony, prosecutors said the deputies attempted to cover up their misdeeds by lying in reports of the incident saying Jones was being combative. Sather testified that after the inmate was taken to the infirmary, the two huddled in a security booth “to get [their] stories straight.”
Attorneys for the defendants argued in court that “there was no cover up… because there was no beating” and claimed “Sather made it up,” but jurors deliberated for only 90 minutes before returning guilty verdicts against the deputies.
Brunsting, 31, and Branum, 35, were each convicted of three charges: conspiracy to violate Jones’ civil rights, depriving him of his civil rights under color of authority, and falsifying records.
They face a maximum of 40 years in federal prison when they are sentenced on August 22. Brunsting is also set to face an additional trial later this year for another force incident that occurred at the jail in August 2009.