U of M Professor Pleads Guilty to Sex Crime with Minor

Updated: 08/29/2014 11:30 AM
Created: 08/29/2014 10:54 AM
By: Jennie Olson

A University of Minnesota Neuroscience professor has pleaded guilty to trying to start a sexual relationship with a minor.

Sixty-three-year-old Woody Dale Branton of Minneapolis entered a conditional guilty plea on one count of enticing a minor into criminal sexual activity.

According to the plea, Branton and a 15-year-old girl from Louisiana exchanged thousands of Facebook messages from October to December 2013, many of which were sexual.

Authorities began investigating Branton when the girl's mother alerted them to the graphic messages. She said Branton knew the girl because he’s a family friend.

The girl's mother also said her daughter received handcuff jewelry, flowers for Valentine's Day, and a homemade card that was “telling.”

Branton was also accused of buying a plane ticket to Louisiana to meet up with the teen, although his attorney told a judge that Branton never actually had any physical contact with her.

Branton will be sentenced Jan. 5, 2015, and could face 10 years to life in prison and up to $250,000 in fines.

The case is part of Project Safe Childhood, which is a nationwide initiative to fight child sexual exploitation and abuse.

Watch our previous coverage in the video player above.

Photo: Woody Dale Branton/University of Minnesota Bio Page

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