Former California Correctional Officer Pleads Guilty to Civil Rights Violations for Assaults on Inmates and Cover Up Inside CSP-Sacramento

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

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Arturo Pacheco, 40, of Elk Grove, pleaded guilty today to criminal civil rights violations for the on‑duty assault of two inmates entrusted to his care and to submitting false reports about those incidents in an attempt to cover them up, U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert announced.

According to court documents, Pacheco was a correctional officer at California State Prison, Sacramento (CSP-Sacramento). On September 15, 2016, while escorting an inmate, Pacheco grabbed the legs of the inmate, pulling the legs out from under him. The inmate, whose hands were handcuffed behind his back, fell forward onto the concrete floor, breaking his jaw, several teeth, and suffering other injuries. That inmate was transported to UC Davis Medical Center where he received treatment for his injuries. Approximately two days later, the inmate suffered a pulmonary embolism and died. While the inmate was receiving treatment, Pacheco, a sergeant, and other correctional officers began falsifying reports to cover up the incident.

Following the death of the inmate, investigators uncovered a second incident involving Pacheco. In that incident, on May 19, 2016, Pacheco had, unprovoked, discharged a canister of pepper spray at short range into the eyes of an inmate who was inside of a prison cell. Pacheco falsified his report in that case to make it appear as though his actions were justified in order to save the life of the inmate. In reality, the inmate was fully complying with commands, and any use of force at that time was unlawful.

As outlined in the factual basis to his plea agreement, Pacheco sent text messages to a friend after the May 2016 incident, commenting how “funny” the incident was and “[i]t’s all about how u write ur report”, “plus ur partners have ur back.” As Pacheco said, “[b]lood, broken glass, n just u n ur partners. … Green light!”

“Pacheco deprived inmates of their civil rights, abusing his position of authority as a correctional officer to harm them,” said U.S. Attorney Talbert. “While Pacheco thought a ‘green wall’ or code of silence would protect him, he was wrong. His crimes have come to light and today he has admitted to his assaults and cover up. Those who violate the public’s trust by harming inmates ‘under the color of law’ or by covering up wrongdoing must and will be held accountable.”

“The FBI is deeply committed to protecting the rights of all Americans, and those rights do not stop behind the walls of our prisons,” said Acting Special Agent in Charge Dennis Guertin. “Today’s guilty plea is the result of an intensive investigation conducted by the FBI and our partners at the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and the United States Attorney’s Office. Corruption and civil rights violations within our prisons are some of the most difficult to detect and investigate, and we encourage anyone who has knowledge of similar crimes to reach out to any FBI field office or submit information to tips.fbi.gov.”

This case is the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation with the cooperation of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Office of Internal Affairs. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michael D. Anderson and Rosanne L. Rust are prosecuting the case.

Pacheco remains out of custody pending sentencing. Fellow former California State Prison, Sacramento correctional officer, Ashley M. Aurich, charged separately, is pending sentencing as well.

Pacheco is scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge William B. Shubb on October 17, 2022. Pacheco faces a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in prison on each of the false reporting counts and 10 years in prison on each of the assault counts and a $250,000 fine per count. The actual sentence, however, will be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables.