Federal Inmate Sentenced to Life in Prison for the Murder of a Correctional Officer

Atwater, California - Federal inmate James Ninete Leon Guerrero, 48, of Guam, was sentenced today to serve life in prison for the murder of United States Correctional Officer Jose Rivera, announced Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner of the Eastern District of California.  Guerrero was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Phillip Pro of the District of Nevada. 

According to court documents, Guerrero aided and abetted co-defendant Jose Cabrera Sablan in the stabbing death of Officer Rivera.  On June 20, 2008, as Officer Rivera was on duty and conducting his daily count in the United States Penitentiary in Atwater, California, Sablan attacked him with an eight-inch homemade shank.  Officer Rivera tried to flee, but was knocked backwards by Sablan and tackled by Guerrero.  Guerrero held Rivera down as Sablan stabbed him with the shank in excess of 20 times.  Officer Rivera was 22 years old at the time of his death and was a United States Navy veteran. 

Sablan and Guerrero were indicted for murder on Aug. 14, 2008.  Sablan’s case is set for trial on April 6, 2015, and the government will be seeking the death penalty if he is convicted. 

The charges against Sablan are merely accusations and he is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

The investigation was conducted by the Bureau of Prisons and the FBI.  The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Bonnie Hannan of the Capital Case Section of the Criminal Division and Assistant U.S. Attorney Duce Rice of the Eastern District of California. 

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