Department of Justice
Office of Public Affairs
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, March 3, 2016
Former Jail Administrator from Stone County, Arkansas, Pleads Guilty to Instructing Inmates to Assault Another Prisoner
The Justice Department announced that Randel Branscum, 56, a former chief deputy and jail administrator with the Stone County Sheriff’s Office in Mountain View, Arkansas, pleaded guilty late yesterday to violating the civil rights of a prisoner when he instructed two other inmates to beat that prisoner and then arranged for the beating to occur. One of those inmates, Matthew McConniel, also pleaded guilty late yesterday to the same charge as Branscum, while the other inmate, James Beckham, pleaded guilty to the same civil rights offense on Feb. 26, 2016.
During his guilty plea before Chief U.S. District Judge Brian S. Miller of the Eastern District of Arkansas, Branscum admitted that while acting under his authority as jail administrator, he approached the inmates in their cell and asked them to “handle” the victim. Branscum then forced the victim into the cell and allowed the victim to be beaten by Beckham and McConniel as instructed. During the assault, the victim was repeatedly struck and his head was punched into a windowsill causing a laceration and other injuries. Branscum admitted that after the beating, he gave Beckham and McConniel tobacco.
Branscum is expected to receive a sentence of 12 months and a day in federal prison. He will be sentenced at a later date.
“Branscum abused his authority as a law enforcement officer by facilitating the assault of an individual in custody,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “The Justice Department will continue to vigorously pursue and hold accountable members of law enforcement who violate their oath and the civil rights of others.”
“Branscum’s actions undermine the credibility of all law enforcement officers, and he must be held accountable,” said U.S. Attorney Christopher R. Thyer of the Eastern District of Arkansas. “We will not tolerate the violation of anyone’s rights, and law enforcement officers who break the law and violate their oath to protect the public will continue to face the consequences of their actions.”
This case was investigated by the FBI, and was prosecuted by Special Litigation Counsel Gerard Hogan, and Trial Attorneys Gabriel Davis and Samantha Trepel of the Civil Rights Division’s Criminal Section, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Julie Peters of the Eastern District of Arkansas.