A former prisoner transport officer was sentenced today to 24 months in federal prison, followed by one year of supervised release, for violating the civil rights of pretrial detainees.
Department of Justice Press Release Number: 23-122 - Topic(s): Civil Rights
On Sept. 28, 2022, a federal jury convicted Anthony Buntyn, 55, a former prisoner transport officer, of violating the civil rights of pretrial detainees in his custody. Specifically, the jury convicted Buntyn of being deliberately indifferent to conditions on the prisoner transport van that posed a risk of serious harm to the health and safety of the detainees entrusted to his care. The jury further found that Buntyn’s deliberate indifference to the conditions on the prisoner transport van resulted in bodily injury to one of the pretrial detainees who had been on the van for several days.
According to court documents and the evidence introduced at trial, Buntyn was a prisoner transport officer employed by Prisoner Transportation Services of America (PTS), a company hired by local jails and prisons throughout the country to transport people who had been arrested pursuant to out-of-state warrants and needed to be transported back to the states that had issued the warrants. Buntyn was the supervising officer on a March 2017 PTS transport that stopped in New Mexico during a cross-country trip. Evidence at trial established that Buntyn knowingly created, and otherwise subjected the detainees to, dangerous, painful and unhealthy conditions on the prisoner transport van. Specifically, evidence at trial showed that Buntyn would retaliate against detainees who complained of transport conditions by handcuffing the detainees behind their backs and forcing them to remain for hours in a small segregation cage inside the van, depriving detainees of meals and access to water while they remained in the cage, cranking up the heat in the already-hot van in retaliation for detainees complaining that, as they passed through the southwestern desert, they were in danger of overheating, and failing to provide the detainees with required restroom breaks until the detainees were left with no choice but to urinate in empty bottles or on the floor.
“Prisoner transport officers, even when they are employed by private companies, must abide by the laws and protect the constitutional rights of the people in their custody,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “The department will continue to vigorously enforce our nation’s laws to ensure that officers who break the law — including those who are driving the nation’s backroads in prisoner transport vans and may therefore wrongly believe they can act with impunity — are held accountable.”
“Detainees are entitled to basic human dignity,” said U.S. Attorney Alexander M.M. Uballez for the District of New Mexico. “Those who are responsible for their detention, from transport personnel to law enforcement and corrections officers, have the same duty to protect the rights and safety of their charges. Any abuse of detainees or failure to provide basic necessities is a violation of that trust and a violation of the law, and it will be roundly prosecuted.”
“During the cross-country transport of these individuals, a stop was made by the PTS at the Shawnee County Detention Center in Topeka, Kansas. If not for the Detention Center notifying the FBI of the detainees’ condition upon arrival, the FBI may have never known or been able to seek justice for these victims. Buntyn’s actions disparage the very core of what he was employed to do – protect these individuals while in his custody,” said Special Agent in Charge Charles Dayoub of the Kansas City Field Office. “He knowingly disregarded the detainees’ basic civil rights, putting these individuals in harm’s way. Today’s sentencing demonstrates the FBI’s unique ability to conduct a successful nationwide investigation alongside our law enforcement partners.”
Buntyn was acquitted of a use of force and an obstruction of justice charge.
Assistant Attorney General Clarke, U.S. Attorney Uballez, and Special Agent in Charge Dayoub made the announcement.
This FBI Kansas City Field Office investigated the case.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Kimberly A. Brawley for the District of New Mexico and Trial Attorney Laura Gilson of the Civil Rights Division’s Criminal Division, with assistance from Special Litigation Counsel Samantha Trepel, prosecuted the case.
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