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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Eastern District of California

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

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

SACRAMENTO—Federal inmate Joseph Cabrera Sablan, 47, was sentenced today to life in prison without the possibility of release for the murder of United States Correctional Officer Jose Rivera, U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner announced.

On July 22, 2015, Sablan pleaded guilty to murdering Officer Rivera. According to court documents, on June 20, 2008, Officer Rivera was conducting his daily count at the United States Penitentiary in Atwater when Sablan attacked him with an eight‑inch homemade knife. Officer Rivera tried to flee, but was knocked backwards by Sablan and tackled by Sablan’s co-defendant, James Ninete Leon Guerrero. Leon Guerrero held Rivera down as Sablan stabbed him. Sablan and Leon Guerrero were indicted for the murder on August 14, 2008, in Fresno, but the case was transferred to Los Angeles in the Central District of California on December 19, 2014. On May 30, 2014, Leon Guerrero was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of release for his part in the murder.

“With today’s sentencing, both of the defendants who carried out this reprehensible and senseless act have received life sentences without the possibility of release, and have been held accountable,” U.S. Attorney Wagner stated. “Those who work within our correctional facilities walk in harm’s way every day, and when one of them is attacked, we will respond vigorously.”

The case was investigated by the Bureau of Prisons and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Duce Rice of the Eastern District of California and Trial Attorney Robert Feitel of the Criminal Division’s Capital Case Section prosecuted the case.

Press Release Number: 
Updated January 8, 2016