New Folsom guard expected to plead guilty in federal civil rights case

Arturo Pacheco, right, via CDCR

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A former corrections officer at the California State Prison in Sacramento is expected to plead guilty in a federal civil rights case involving two inmates, one who later died due to the officer’s use of force.

In a request filed on Wednesday with federal judge William B. Shubb, an attorney for Arturo Pacheco of Mather asked that a change of plea hearing be calendared for the 25th. Shubb’s clerk, Karen Kirksey Smith, quickly approved the request and added it to the calendar.

Pacheco previously pled not guilty in November of 2020, and because no contest pleas are rare in federal cases, will likely plead guilty to at least one of the charges a grand jury returned against him following a joint investigation between the FBI and CDCR’s Internal Affairs Office.

According to the indictment handed down in 2020, Pacheco is charged with two counts of depriving inmates of their rights under the color of law and two counts of falsifying records in a federal investigation. He faces a maximum penalty of 60 years in prison and over $400,000 in fines.

The grand jury said that, during his time as a correctional officer in building A7 at the prison in the Represa neighborhood of Folsom, he approached an unidentified inmate in his cell shortly after he was ordered to return to it by an uninvolved CO in May of 2016.

Pacheco allegedly gave the inmate a series of confusing instructions, telling him to turn around and walk towards him with his eyes closed before opening them at the last second.

When the inmate opened his eyes, the indictment alleges, Pacheco sprayed him in the face with his prison-issued pepper spray for several seconds, causing the inmate to develop a burning sensation and temporary blindness, according to the grand jury.

“PACHECO sprayed Victim 1 with pepper spray, while Victim 1 was compliant and posing no threat,” the indictment reads. “Such acts resulted in bodily injury to Victim 1, in violation of [federal law].”

In an incident report about the pepper spray incident, Pacheco said the inmate was holding glass and intended to harm himself before he was sprayed. Investigators found that report to be false.

“In order to stop [Victim 1] from self-harming himself and causing serious bodily injury or death to himself, I used immediate force, utilizing an approximate 3 second burst from my MK-9 OC pepper spray,” he wrote. “I ordered [Victim 1] to drop the glass, turn around, and submit to handcuffs.”

In September of 2016, Pacheco and his partner, Ashley Marie Aurich, were tasked with escorting an inmate from building A6 back to building A7. Pacheco and Aurich held the handcuffed inmate from seperate sides, according to the grand jury, when the inmate abruptly stiffened up and stopped walking as they entered the A7 rotunda.

Pacheco then allegedly let go of the inmate, bending down and hooking his arms around the prisoner’s legs before swiftly pulling them backwards in the CO’s direction, causing the inmate to be slammed head-first on the ground with no hands available to break his fall.

The inmate broke his jaw and fragments of what used to be his teeth quickly scattered across the floor as a pool of blood enveloped his head. He died two days later at the UC Davis Medical Center, according to a plea agreement signed in January by Aurich. She faces a maximum term of 20 years in prison for one count of falsifying records.

In connection to the deadly fall, Pacheco allegedly lied on another incident report where he described the victim as aggressive and combatant in the rotunda. Aurich cosigned his lie and omitted the presence of another correctional officer who she feared would submit an accurate report on the incident.

“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.”

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