U of M Professor Charged with Sex Crime with Minor to Stay in Federal Custody

A University of Minnesota Neuroscience professor arrested and accused of a sex crime with a minor will remain in federal custody.

On Tuesday, a judge in St. Paul ruled Dr. Dale Branton posed a threat to the community, because of the nature of the charges against him.


Authorities began investigating Dr. Branton back in December when a mother from Louisiana alerted them to graphic emails being exchanged between her 15-year-old daughter and Branton. He knew the teen because he's a family friend.

FBI agents in Louisiana seized her daughter's computer and cellphone. Then, an undercover agent posed as the teen online, to do surveillance.

In court, KSTP reporter Beth McDonough learned of more than 5,000 Facebook messages, emails, texts and phone calls between the 62-year-old professor and the 15-year-old girl over a four month period.

Fearing her daughter might not be the only teen Branton's accused of having sexually charged communications with, the mother reached out to KSTP-TV. 

On Feb. 26, a KSTP crew stopped by Branton's Minneapolis home to ask him about some of the emails. He took the notes out of the hands of reporter Beth McDonough and closed the door. Branton wouldn't speak about the emails and in Federal Court Wednesday, he said even less.

FBI agents testified the graphic emails allegedly exchanged between Branton and the girl speak for themselves. One of Branton's neighbors agrees. "He definitely should know better," Mark Kristensen said.

In one exchange between Branton and the girl, he said, "Our conversations have evolved into something inappropriate."  In another, Branton allegedly confesses he wanted to perform oral sex on her and he'd be disappointed if he didn't. A third said, "I did a stupid thing and let myself get involved."

The girl's mother says, "He was definitely a predator who's now become a stalker."  She says her teen received handcuff jewelry, flowers for Valentine's Day and a homemade card that was telling. He wrote about himself knowing that he might get in trouble, "Congratulations you're a pedophile, he was aware of what he was doing, he was aware of the risk he was taking," according to the mom.

Agents took her daughter's cellphone and computer. Even after KSTP's confrontation, Branton was relentless according to FBI agents. He reportedly coached the teen how to change browser settings so their communications wouldn't be detected. When authorities arrested him, they found three guns, two of them loaded and seized his computer.

Branton's attorney told a judge although evidence shows he bought a plane ticket to visit the teen in Louisiana, he never had physical contact with the teen.

Branton has been a Professor at the U of M since 1988. The University told KSTP his employment is under review.

Branton also faces court hearings in Louisiana.


Copyright 2018 - KSTP-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company


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