SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A former corrections officer at CSP Sac inked a plea deal on Thursday to charges of violating the civil rights of several inmates by using excessive force, later submitting false reports in an effort to cover it all up.
Arturo Pacheco pled guilty on Monday to four felonies at the Robert Matsui courthouse downtown, according to a spokesperson for the US Attorney’s Office.
According to a plea agreement, if a judge chooses to sentence Pacheco to the maximum consecutive term, he could spend 60 years behind bars. Prosecutors said he wouldn’t be eligible for a sentence reduction due to acceptance of responsibility because of how late his guilty plea came. The government had already completed pretrial interviews, the preparation of exhibits, and the drafting of trial documents.
Investigators first began looking into Pacheco following the use of force on an inmate in 2016. Pacheco swept a handcuffed prisoner’s legs out from under him as he stiffened up and refused to walk through the prison’s A7 rotunda back to his cell.
The man went crashing to the ground, injured his shoulder in a failed attempt to break his fall, and broke his jaw and several of his teeth – a pool of blood quickly spreading around his head.
The inmate was transferred to the UC Davis Medical Center for his injuries, and appeared to be medically stable after treatment, but died days later of a pulmonary embolism while taking a shower in his hospital room.
After Pacheco returned to his office to write an incident report on the use of force, he told his partner, Ashley Aurich, to keep the reports “in house”, meaning they would run falsified versions by each other to get a story straight.
Pacheco and Aurich falsely stated that the inmate spun to his left, breaking free of Pacheco’s escort, and lunged forward. They said Pacheco brought the inmate to the ground “in a controlling manner”, when in reality he bashed the man’s head into the concrete.
“Once we arrived to FA7 rotunda area, [Victim 2] stopped walking, spun to his left, and lunged forward, breaking free of my escort,” Pacheco wrote. “As [Victim 2] turned to his left, breaking my grasp, and began to lunge forward, I placed my right hand on [his] left triceps and used [his] forward momentum and my body weight to force [him] to the ground.”
Aurich and Pacheco also omitted the presence of another CO at the scene in fear that he would submit a truthful report on what happened. That CO ended up writing how he thought the force his coworker used was excessive but was later dissuaded from sending it in after Pacheco told him not to.
Aurich previously pled guilty to attempting to cover up the abuse with Pacheco and faces a maximum term of 20 years behind bars.
Prosecutors said Pacheco and Aurich were following an unwritten rule known as the “Green Wall”, where correctional officers protect one another by not notifying supervisors of misconduct or wrongdoing.
After the inmate died in his shower, investigators uncovered a second assault and false report. Pacheco wrote in May of 2016 that a prisoner broke his window and was attempting to hurt himself with a shard of broken glass.
In reality, Pacheco had ordered the inmate to turn around, walk towards him, and open his eyes. Once the man did so, Pacheco sprayed him in the face with OC spray. The inmate experienced temporary blindness and was later seen by a doctor for damage to his eyes.
That evening, Pacheco sent a copy of his falsified incident report to a friend and bragged about “fucking up” the prisoner. Pacheco said he sprayed the mace from six feet away when he actually did so from three feet – a distance that can cause soft tissue damage to the eyes.
“[I]t’s all about how u write ur report, plus ur partners have ur back,” Pacheco texted his friend. “Blood, broken glass, n just u n ur partners… Green light!”