Skip to main content

FBI arrests U of M professor accused of child exploitation


An associate professor at the University of Minnesota was arrested Friday in connection with offenses pertaining to child exploitation, the FBI said.

An arrest warrant for Woody Dale Branton, 62, was issued out of the Western District of Louisiana; he was taken into custody without incident at his home in Minneapolis' Prospect Park neighborhood.

MPR reports court documents list charges against Branton as "Enticing a minor to engage in sexually explicit conduct" and "Production of child pornography." He appeared in federal district court in St. Paul Friday and will remain in custody for a detention and removal hearing. That's scheduled for March 12 at a St. Paul courthouse, MPR says.

KSTP spoke with the mother of the alleged victim, who says Branton "coerced" her 15-year-old daughter into sending "nearly-nude" photos of herself, and also discussed sexual acts with her. The mother describes him as a longtime family friend turned predator, the station reports.

The station also approached Branton at his home before he was arrested, bringing with them a printed copy of a sexually explicit chat he is accused to have had with the teenager. He took the document and did not offer comment.

Branton has been employed at the U of M since 1988 and is an associate professor in the Department of Neuroscience. According to the Star Tribune a school spokesman says Branton was not scheduled to teach this semester, and the university is reviewing his status after being made aware of the charges.

A university webpage says Branton's research involves molecular and cellular transmissions and signaling mechanisms that involve calcium.

Next Up

Payton Willis / Gopher Basketball

Gophers improve to 5-0 with win over Jacksonville

The Gophers are establishing momentum early in the season.

Anthony Edwards

Ant's massive slam leads Timberwolves to fifth straight win

The dunk didn't count, but provided the highlight of the night.

Cam Talbot / Minnesota Wild

WIld arrive late, Cam Talbot stays on point to beat Devils

Despite a 30-minute delay, the Wild picked up a 3-2 victory.

Screen Shot 2021-11-24 at 4.10.54 PM

Appeal to find 35-year-old missing from Oak Grove home

Police say he's not believed to be in danger.

vote, election

7 MN Republicans urge states to audit 2020 election results

There has been no evidence of significant fraud in any single U.S. state.

child vaccine pexels

How many MN kids age 5-11 have received a COVID vaccine dose?

The governor says the state has one of the highest child vaccination rates in the U.S.

police lights

Seven juveniles arrested in connection with stolen vehicles in Woodbury

Woodbury authorities have issued a warning following a spate of auto thefts.

police lights squad car dark - Unsplash

1 dead after driver crashes into stalled vehicle on shoulder

The vehicle stopped on the side of the road was unoccupied at the time.

Everson Griffen Vikings dot com

Update: Vikings say Griffen is out of his home, 'getting the care he needs'

After hours in his residence, the 33-year-old exited "without incident," the team said.

The search involved several local public safety agencies, including a State Patrol helicopter unit and a K9 team.

Woman, 22, dies in crash just outside Brainerd

Another woman was injured in the collision.


U of M professor: Drugs aren't solution to kids' attention problems

A psychology professor from the University of Minnesota is making waves with an article in the Sunday New York Times. L. Alan Sroufe says medicating children is a misguided approach to treating attention disorders. "Putting children on drugs does nothing to change the conditions that derail their development in the first place," he writes.

U of M professor accused of sexually assaulting and stalking ex

One in every seven women has been stalked to the point of being scared for their safety, one group says.