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Press Release

Federal Inmate Pleads Guilty To Murder Of United States Correctional Officer

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of California

WASHINGTON—A federal inmate pleaded guilty today for the murder of United States Correctional Officer Jose Rivera, announced Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner for the Eastern District of California.

James Ninete Leon Guerrero, 48, of Guam, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Phillip Pro to one count of murder by a federal prisoner serving a life sentence. According to court documents, Guerrero aided and abetted co-defendant Jose Cabrera Sablan in the stabbing death of Officer Rivera.

Court documents allege that on June 20, 2008, as Officer Rivera was on duty conducting his daily count in the United States Penitentiary in Atwater, Calif., Sablan attacked him with an eight-inch homemade shank. Officer Rivera tried to flee, but he was knocked backwards by Sablan and tackled by Guerrero. Guerrero held Officer Rivera down as Sablan stabbed him with the shank more than 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. As a result of Guerrero’s plea, he faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison. His sentencing has been scheduled for May 30, 2014, at 2:00 p.m. in the Eastern District of California.

Sablan’s case is set for trial on April 6, 2015. He is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

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

Updated April 8, 2015