The family of a man brutally killed in Austin, Texas, told Fox News Digital that the county’s Soros-backed progressive district attorney has ignored their objections to lenient sentences for all five defendants in the case and shown he “doesn’t care” about crime victims.
Christopher Branham, a 26-year-old father of two, was murdered on June 24, 2020, after being beaten and robbed in a mob-style attack at a Round Rock, Texas, motel by five individuals. He was then taken to a cornfield by two of the individuals, where he was shot and killed. His body was not found until weeks later.
Travis County District Attorney Jose Garza, a progressive activist funded by the network of liberal mega donor George Soros, took office in January of the next year, and Branham’s family told Fox News Digital that’s when “all the issues started.”
Branham’s family says the evidence against the five defendants is “overwhelming” and included terabytes of data and video posted on social media.
“We were very confident, we were promised they were going to go for capital murder, and they would go away forever. We were very confident in all the cases, and then in January, DA Garza takes over, and we were immediately informed that he was not going for capital murder, because that’s what he ran on, and we were very furious about that,” Conny Branham, Christopher Branham’s mother, told Fox News Digital.
Branham’s family said that juvenile Shawna Rogers, one of the suspects seen stomping on Christopher Branham and breaking his bones during the robbery in a video she posted on social media, was facing decades in juvenile detention before Garza’s office intervened and re-filed lower charges without notifying them and sent her to a rehabilitation center for sex trafficking victims until her 18th birthday rather than a juvenile detention facility.
Rogers then escaped from that rehab center and was on the run before getting hit by a car and killed in Fort Worth, Texas, on October 14, 2021, the same day that Christopher Branham would have celebrated his birthday.
The Branham family told Fox News Digital that Garza’s office never notified them Rogers was on the loose and back in the community, and the family found out on their own that she was on the run.
“I was doing research on missing persons around midnight, and lo and behold, her face comes up on my screen,” Conny Branham said. “I could have had a heart attack right there. It was absolutely horrific.”
“They should have let us know,” Monica Branham, Christopher’s sister, said. “She could have been dangerous and coming after us. We don’t know.”
The second defendant in the case, Jesse Perkins, was indicted for aggravated robbery in 2020, but Garza’s office dismissed the charges after taking office “pending further investigation” in a move the family says they were told by Garza’s assistants was made due to “lack of evidence.”
“There was plenty of evidence,” Monica Branham said.
Perkins is currently in prison on a three-year sentence for a separate robbery charge in neighboring Williamson County, committed the same week of Branham’s murder. Court records show that Perkins is eligible for release in 2023.
The Branham family says that Garza promised them he would personally let them know about any plea deals or significant negotiations but did not personally tell them when the charges against Perkins were dismissed, and made moves after that without personally speaking to the family, instead communicating through his assistants, sometimes via email.
“That’s how he shows you he’s not genuine,” Monica Branham said. “He doesn’t care. He doesn’t care about victims.”
The third defendant, Jamil Watford, was wearing an ankle monitor while participating in the assault of Branham after being released by Travis County on a PR bond for a previous aggravated robbery charge.
The family says that Watford was also offered a deal much lower than what they had hoped.
“We know he was heavily involved in directing it,” Monica Branham said about Watford’s involvement. “So it’s hard to know that he’s only charged with aggravated robbery and not murder.”
The remaining two, who are accused of driving Christopher Branham to a cornfield, where he was shot and left dead for weeks, have also received lenient treatment from Garza’s office, according to the family.
Anthony Davis was initially indicted for capital murder, which carries a sentence of death, life without parole or life with parole, but negotiated a plea deal with Garza’s office in September, whereby the prosecutor will recommend a sentence of 14 years for first-degree murder, less than the family had asked for, if his testimony against the fifth suspect is deemed credible.
Davis, who was in the car that drove Branham to the cornfield and was present during the execution, could end up spending as little as five years in prison for his participation in the murder, KTBC-TV reported.
According to an affidavit from the case, Davis and the alleged trigger man, Kyle Cleveland, told their accomplices they were taking Branham to the hospital after the beating and robbery. However, when they returned without him, Davis reportedly laughed and said the pair “sent him home” and that he was “in heaven.”
Davis is also believed to have chased Branham down with Cleveland’s gun when Branham attempted to escape from the vehicle on the way to the cornfield.
The Branham family says they have spoken up multiple times in objecting to the idea of Davis serving 14 or 15 years for what started as a capital murder charge.
“We were furious, because the offer was 15 years, and we begged and we pleaded, and we had phone calls and meetings and were threatened to be hung up on by DA Garza, the works, because we did not agree with the 15 years … but they just did it,” Conny Branham told Fox News Digital.
“We asked them, ‘OK, 15 years that’s nothing for capital murder, there’s no counteroffer, no wiggle room, there’s no going down on that right?’ They were like ‘No, it’s either that or go to trial,’” Monica Branham said. “Then they tell us he counteroffered 12.5 years, and we’re going to go down to 14 so that we can get his help in the other trials. We were like, ‘No, absolutely not,’ and they said, ‘Sorry we already signed the paperwork.’”
The Branham family says they were told Davis’ plea deal will help in the case against the alleged trigger man, Kyle Cleveland, while also being told that the case against Cleveland was strong without any additional testimony.
“So why go so low?” Monica Branham asked. “You don’t absolutely need him. I get it if it makes or breaks the case. But it doesn’t.”
The fifth defendant, Kyle Cleveland, is facing a capital murder indictment, but the Branham family says a plea deal is possible for significantly less prison time than the 99 years they have asked for. Cleveland is scheduled to go to trial this month.
Applicable Texas state law, known as the “law of parties,” says that “each party to an offense may be charged with commission of the offense” which the family believes allows the state to charge all parties involved with Branham’s murder.
“All traditional distinctions between accomplices and principals are abolished by this section, and each party to an offense may be charged and convicted without alleging that he acted as a principal or accomplice,” the law states.
The Branham family told Fox News Digital that they had been told by Garza’s office that the law of parties does not apply due to the robbery and beating being a separate event from the murder when Cleveland and Davis left the group with Christopher Branham in the car and shot him to death in a different area.
“Every single person that was involved has a piece in the murder,” Monica Branham. “I mean, all of them should be charged with murder, because they all beat him so badly he could have died right there.”
Garza, who was elected as Travis County DA without any previous experience as a prosecutor, ran on a platform of progressive policies with a plan to “reimagine justice in Travis County.”
Garza has faced criticism since taking office, from those who say that his lenient sentencing policies have contributed to surging crime, including a record number of homicides in 2021, and low police morale.
Dennis Farris, president of the Austin Police Retired Officer’s Association, told Fox News Digital that “it appears that Garza has now become more of an advocate for the criminal than he has for the victim.”
“The prosecution is acting more like defense attorneys than they are prosecutors,” Farris said. “Whatever his skewed view of what criminal justice reform is, isn’t working. It sure isn’t working for the victims. It used to be that they got the victims’ buy-in before offering plea bargains. Now it doesn’t appear he’s even doing that, because they’re not even communicating with them, and that’s what’s leading to the revictimization of these families.”
“We’re absolutely disgusted with that office at this point,” Conny Branham told Fox News Digital, adding that she believes the lack of willingness to pursue stronger convictions is “political.”
“There’s just a lot of stuff they’ve told us that are straight-up lies and just carrots to make us feel good,” Branham said. “We’ve been dealing with this for two years and three months, and it just feels like nobody cares what we have to say.”
“Our voice is not heard at all,” Monica Branham said.
The family says that they searched the cornfields for Christopher’s body for weeks while the suspects all remained uncooperative and could have shown remorse and revealed where the body was, which adds to the frustration that they were offered deals by the DA’s office.
“My dad was in the cornfields every day,” Monica Branham said about her father, Jim Branham, and the search for his body while the suspects remained uncooperative.
“It’s absolutely horrible,” Conny Branham said. “That’s the stuff that keeps you up at night.”
“What’s that supposed to say?” Monica added. “You’re still giving them a deal when they left him out there?”
“We expected much higher numbers for all of them,” Conny Branham said about the punishment for the perpetrators. “When the DA informed us they were going to give the juvenile a deal due to mitigating circumstances from her past, he promised to go hard on the males, especially Davis and Cleveland. Not only did he break his promise to personally keep us informed of any upcoming decisions, the deals do not fit the crimes they committed.”
“By offering low numbers, we feel they are devaluing our son’s life,” Branham said.
The Branham family told Fox News Digital that they hope Christopher is remembered as a loving father who always had a good attitude and trusted people.
“My daughter, she was four when this happened, and he was like her favorite person,” Monica Branham, who described Christopher as her “best friend,” told Fox News Digital. “And every time he walked in the door, she was glowing, and it’s just been really hard for her, too. I mean he just disappeared pretty much. How do you explain that to kids?”
The family is organizing a memorial golf tournament for Christopher Branham on October 14th, his birthday, to raise money for causes that were important to him, including supporting search-and-rescue teams and youth sports scholarships.
Fox News Digital reached out to Garza’s office for comment multiple times but did not receive a response.