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2 Los Angeles County deputies get prison after jail beating

LOS ANGELES — Two Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies who beat a mentally ill jail inmate and falsified records to hide the abuse were sentenced Monday to federal prison.

Bryan Brunsting, 32, was given 21 months in prison while Jason Branum, 36, was sentenced to five months behind bars. However, both were allowed to remain free pending an appeal.

The two are among 20 current or former sheriff's employees convicted of federal charges in connection with a probe of corruption and abuse in the Sheriff's Department.

Former Sheriff Lee Baca is facing trial next month after pleading not guilty to obstructing justice, conspiracy and lying to the federal government. He could face up to 20 years in federal prison if convicted.

Brunsting and Branum were charged in a March 22, 2010, attack on a schizophrenic inmate who had shown disrespect to a civilian Sheriff's Department employee.

The deputies and a rookie brought the inmate to a locked hallway that lacked surveillance cameras. Prosecutors said Brunsting and Branum beat the man, kicked him in the genitals and sprayed him in the eyes with pepper spray. The man didn't fight back.

After he was led away for medical treatment, the deputies and the rookie made up a false story to hide the abuse by claiming the inmate had tried to punch the rookie, prosecutors argued.

At trial, a defence attorney said the inmate was dangerous and the deputies used legal force.

But the rookie deputy, who quit the department after the incident, testified that Brunsting and Branum beat the inmat until he was crying' and told the rookie how to write his report to cover up the incident.

In May, Brunsting and Branum were found guilty of conspiracy to violate civil rights, deprivation of civil rights with bodily injury, and falsifying records. Brunsting also acknowledged his role in a 2009 use-of-force incident at the jail, prosecutors said.

"Both defendants engaged in a vicious, premeditated assault on an inmate," U.S. Attorney Eileen M. Decker said in a statement. "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."