WASHINGTON – Grace Chung Becker, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, announced today that Chief Thomas Houston, Deputy Chief Thomas Branson, and Sergeant Thomas Decanter of the Gary, Ind. Police Department were indicted March 5, 2008, by a federal grand jury in Hammond for multiple civil rights violations against four victims.
Houston was charged with 6 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 2 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 of the victims and had them arrested and detained, without probable cause, until June 4. The indictment further alleges that on June 1, Sgt. Decanter struck one victim with a piece of wood causing bodily injury, while Deputy Chief Branson failed to protect the victim from the assault. When being questioned by the FBI several months later, Branson made a number of false statements about the incident.
If found guilty of all 6 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.
The case will be prosecuted by Trial Attorney Betsy Biffl from the Civil Rights Division.
The charges set forth in an indictment are merely accusations and the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.