Luna County inmates sentenced for assaulting corrections officers

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FILE PHOTO: Signage is seen at the United States Department of Justice headquarters in Washington, D.C.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Jacob Merkel, 23, and Victor Sanchez, 25, were sentenced in federal court on May 16 after pleading guilty to assault upon a person assisting federal officers involving physical contact.

Merkel, who pleaded guilty on Feb. 7, was sentenced to one year and three months in prison, with nine months consecutive to his prior sentence of 13 years and 10 months for robbery and discharge of a firearm. Sanchez, who pleaded guilty on Feb. 9, was sentenced to one year and nine months in prison, with 12 months to run consecutive to his prior eight-year sentence for being a felon in possession of a firearm.

According to the plea agreements and other court records, on Feb. 17, 2021, co-defendant Johnny Black, 36, became angry with corrections staff and started arguing with them. When staff attempted to escort him out of the pod, Black struck an officer, starting an altercation that other inmates joined. Sanchez saw the altercation and joined Black in striking the officer. As the altercation continued, Merkel grabbed another officer and punched him in the face. After Merkel and the officer went to the ground, Merkel got back up and continued the altercation. At that time, a fourth co-defendant, Henry Felix emerged from the crowd and attacked the second officer from behind, striking him in the head and body.

Black pleaded guilty on Feb. 22, and Felix on Feb. 4. Black and Felix are awaiting sentencing, which has not been scheduled.

The U.S. Marshals Service and Luna County Corrections Officers investigated this case. Assistant United States Attorney Nicholas J. Marshall is prosecuting the case.

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