A federal judge Monday sentenced Randel Branscum, 56, formerly the chief sheriff’s deputy and jail administrator for the Stone County Sheriff’s Office in Mountain View, Arkansas, to a year in prison, officials said.
Branscum told a group of prisoners to beat another inmate and then setting up the assault, according to authorities.
As a part of his guilty plea, which occurred on March 2, 2016, Branscum admitted that while acting under his authority as jail administrator, he approached a group of inmates, who were detained together in cell 33 and told them to “handle” the victim.
Branscum then moved the victim, who had been housed in a neighboring cell, into cell 33.
When the victim realized he was about to be assaulted and attempted to leave the cell, Branscum forced the victim inside and then allowed the victim to be beaten as instructed. During the assault, the victim was repeatedly punched and his head was knocked into a windowsill, causing a head wound and other injuries.
“This corrections officer abused his power to order a violent assault against a prisoner,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “We expect and entrust corrections officers with the responsibility to care for and protect inmates in their custody. When corrections officers fail to uphold that oath, their actions corrode our justice system’s fundamental values and create an environment that is more dangerous for inmates as well as officers.”
“This type of abuse of power and authority will never be tolerated by the citizens of Arkansas, or my office,” said U.S. Attorney Christopher R. Thyer of the Eastern District of Arkansas. “The public deserves to know that law enforcement and correctional officers are trustworthy and law-abiding citizens, held to high ethical standards. When an officer strays from that standard, as this officer did, they will be held accountable for their illegal actions.”
One of the inmates who carried out the beating, Matthew McConniel, was also sentenced Monday by U.S. District Judge Brian S. Miller for the same offense as Branscum and received a term of probation.
On May 26, 2016, another inmate who took part in the beating, James Beckham, was also sentenced to probation for the offense.
According to a court documents, this is what happened according to a report on Arkansas Online.
In the days leading up to Sept. 19, inmates in the felony pod had been flooding their cells, banging on doors and making a lot of noise, prompting Branscum to ask inmates in the misdemeanor pod if they could “handle” the problem for him.
“I understood that Branscum would be bringing over those inmates. I also understood that Branscum had just given the other inmates in the misdemeanor pod and me permission to physically assault the inmates being transferred into our pod,” Beckham said in the plea agreement.
He said Branscum and another jailer then took Jennings and Jeffries into the misdemeanor pod and Jennings, realizing he was about to be assaulted, tried to leave, prompting jailer Charlie Revell to point a stun gun at Jennings to keep him in the misdemeanor pod.
Within seconds after Jennings entered the pod, he and McConniel began to fight, Beckham said, and “I punched Jennings multiple times, causing Jennings’ head to hit a windowsill or wall in the pod.”
He said Jennings was the only person injured, and after the fight ended, Revell returned and removed Jennings and Jeffries from the misdemeanor pod, the Arkansas Online reported stated.
“Later that day,” Beckham said, “Branscum took me into his office privately and assured me that there was no video of the beating. I also saw Matthew McConniel go into Branscum’s office for a private meeting,” Arkansas Online reported.
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