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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of New Mexico

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Former prisoner transport officer convicted of civil rights offense for abusing detainees in his care

WASHINGTON – Former prisoner transport officer Anthony Buntyn, 55, was convicted of a felony civil rights offense for abusing detainees in his care.

According to court documents and evidence presented 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. 

“Prisoner transport officers, even those employed by private companies, must abide by our civil rights laws and protect the constitutional rights of people in their custody,” said Assistant Attorney General Clarke. “The Justice Department will continue to vigorously enforce our nation’s laws to ensure that the officers who break the law — including those who are driving the nation’s backroads in 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 Uballez. “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.”

Former PTS Agent Buntyn was convicted of depriving detainees on the transport of their constitutional right to be free from an officer’s deliberate indifference to serious health and safety risks to the detainees. Evidence at trial established that the defendant knowingly created, and otherwise subjected the detainees to, dangerous, painful, and unhealthy conditions on the transport van. Specifically, evidence at trial showed that the defendant would retaliate against detainees who complained, by handcuffing the detainees behind their backs and forcing them to remain for hours in a small segregation cage inside the van; by depriving detainees of meals and access to water while they remained in the cage; by 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 by 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.

Buntyn was acquitted of a use of force and an obstruction of justice charge.

A date for the sentencing hearing has not yet been announced.

Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and U.S. Attorney Alexander M.M. Uballez of the District of New Mexico made the announcement.

This case was investigated by the FBI Kansas City Field Office and was prosecuted by Assistant U.S.  Attorney Kimberly A. Brawley of the District of New Mexico and Trial Attorney Laura Gilson of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, with assistance from Special Litigation Counsel Samantha Trepel.

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Topic(s): 
Civil Rights
Press Release Number: 
22-211
Updated September 28, 2022