Professor pleads guilty to sending sexually explicit messages to a minor

Woody Dale Branton could face 10 years to life in prison and registration as a sex offender.

Anne Millerbernd

A University of Minnesota professor has pleaded guilty to pursuing a sexual relationship with a minor, according to a plea agreement filed Wednesday.

Associate professor of neuroscience Woody Dale Branton admitted to having conversations with a 15-year-old girl from Union Parish, La., on Facebook late last year, according to the plea agreement he signed earlier this week.

Many of the thousands of messages were sexual in nature and included requests that the girl send explicit photos of herself, according to the plea agreement.

Between Nov. 29 and Dec. 1, Branton discussed setting up a meeting with the girl, the document said. He also bought a plane ticket to Louisiana, asked the girl to tell him her address and researched rental cabins near her home where they could meet.

Branton, who was arrested in March, was tried in a Louisiana district court. Following an FBI investigation, he could face 10 years to life in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. His sentencing date is set for Jan. 5.

Branton has worked for the University since 1988, but University spokesman Chuck Tombarge previously told the Minnesota Daily that Branton didn’t teach any courses last spring semester for reasons unrelated to his arrest in March.