Luna County inmates sentenced for assault on 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. – Alexander M.M. Uballez, United States Attorney for the District of New Mexico, announced today that Johnny Black and Henry Felix were sentenced to prison for their parts in an assault on corrections officers at the Luna County Detention Center in Deming, New Mexico.

Black and Felix, as well as co-defendants Jacob Merkel and Victor Sanchez, pleaded guilty to assault upon a person assisting federal officers involving physical contact.

According to the plea agreements and other court records, on Feb. 17, 2021, Black 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, Felix emerged from the crowd and attacked the second officer from behind, striking him in the head and body.

On July 15, Black was sentenced to one year and nine months in prison, with one year and six months to run consecutive to his prior sentence of 14 years and three months in prison for using, carrying and brandishing a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence and being an accessory after the fact. On June 10, Felix was sentenced to one year and three months in prison, with nine months to run consecutive to his prior sentence of 10 years for possession with intent to distribute heroin and possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.

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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.

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

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