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Gary, Ind., Chief, Deputy Chief, and Sergeant Indicted for Civil Rights Violations

March 10, 2008  | 

Chief Thomas Houston, Deputy Chief Thomas Branson, and Sergeant Thomas Decanter of the Gary (Ind.) Police Department have been indicted by a federal grand jury in Hammond for multiple civil rights violations against four people.

Houston was charged with six counts of depriving the civil rights of another while under color of law. Decanter was charged with one count of depriving the civil rights of another while under color of law, and Branson was charged with two counts of depriving the civil rights of another while under color of law, and one count of making a false statement to federal agents.

According to the indictment, on June 1, 2007, Houston and Branson unlawfully entered and searched a home in Gary, Ind. Houston then assaulted three people and had them arrested and detained, without probable cause, until June 4.

The incident was reportedly in relation to a break-in at Houston's home on June 1.

The indictment further alleges that on June 1, Sgt. Decanter struck one person with a piece of wood causing bodily injury, while Deputy Chief Branson failed to protect the person from the assault. When being questioned by the FBI several months later, Branson made a number of false statements about the incident.

Gary Mayor Rudy Clay told the Chicago Tribune that the officers all had "exemplary records" and that Branson had a 100-percent conviction rate as a homicide investigator.

Scott King, an attorney for Branson, told the paper that the indictment was "one-sided" and that his client has not had a chance to defend himself. "It's the bottom of the first inning, and the home team didn't have a pitcher," King said.

If found guilty of all six counts, Houston faces a maximum punishment of 24 years of imprisonment. Branson, if found guilty of the two counts he is charged with, faces a maximum punishment of 16 years of imprisonment, and Decanter, if found guilty, faces a maximum punishment of 10 years of imprisonment.

All three defendants were released on $20,000 recognizance bonds. They were allowed to remain on duty and retain their service weapons.

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