A former California correctional officer pleaded guilty on Monday to federal charges, admitting that he had covered up the assault of two inmates, including one who died, and then boasted about it in text messages, the New York Times reports. The former officer, Arturo Pacheco, 40, of Elk Grove, CA, pleaded guilty to two counts of deprivation of rights under color of law and two counts of falsifying records in a federal case. He could face up to 60 years in prison, but under a plea agreement, the government has agreed to recommend that he receive no more than 12 years and seven months when he is sentenced on Oct. 17. While working as a sergeant at a California State Prison in Sacramento, Pacheco was escorting a handcuffed inmate on Sept. 15, 2016, when he yanked the man's legs out from under him, prosecutors said. The inmate, who is not named in the indictment, fell forward onto the concrete, breaking his jaw and several teeth. The man was taken to UC Davis Medical Center where he died of a pulmonary embolism about two days later. While the inmate was in the hospital, Pacheco and other correctional officers began falsifying reports to cover up the episode.
Pacheco told Ashley M. Aurich, a fellow coworker and former guard at the prison, that the two were going to keep their reports "in house" by drafting fake narratives to submit as documentation, according to the plea agreement. The two lied in reports, saying that the victim stopped moving, spun to his left and lunged forward. They wrote that he had broken free of Pacheco’s escort, requiring him to be taken to the ground in a “controlled manner.” Pacheco and Aurich also intentionally left another correctional officer off their report out of fear that the officer would submit an accurate report. Aurich was also charged in the case. She pleaded guilty in January 2021 to one count of falsification of records and is to be sentenced on Sept. 26. This is not the first incident where Pacheco was involved in a confrontation with another inmate. Months before the incident, he sprayed an inmate in the eyes with pepper spray while the inmate was in a cell and created a fake report to justify his actions. The Federal Bureau of Investigation is investigating potential wrongdoing at the Sacramento prison after accusations that correctional officers conspired with inmates to orchestrate the killing of two other prisoners, according to The Sacramento Bee.