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Press Release

Former Correctional Sergeant Found Guilty in Retrial of Falsification of Records to Cover Up Assault of a CSP Sacramento Inmate

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

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A jury found former California state correctional officer Brenda Villa, 32, of North Highlands, guilty today of one count of conspiracy to commit falsification of records in a federal investigation and three counts of falsification of records, U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert announced.

In July 2023, following a three-day trial, a jury found Villa guilty of perjury in connection with a federal grand jury investigation into the assault of an inmate by a correctional officer and the ensuing conspiracy to cover it up. The prior jury could not reach a unanimous verdict on additional conspiracy and falsification of records counts, and the United States requested a retrial. The retrial on those remaining counts finished today.

According to the court records and evidence presented at trial, Villa was a correctional sergeant supervising other officers at California State Prison – Sacramento (also known as New Folsom State Prison or CSP-Sacramento) when correctional officer Arturo Pacheco unlawfully assaulted an inmate under color of law. Several California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) officers responded to the alarm after the assault. Villa was the first responding officer to the scene and immediately took charge. The inmate was transported to the hospital but died two days later. As a supervisor, Villa directed the preparation of, and later signed off on, a series of reports about the incident that she knew were false because they completely omitted the presence and involvement of a correctional officer who had witnessed the assault, and who Villa herself had observed at the scene. Villa instructed the removal of that correctional officer witness’s name from another person’s report. The correctional officer witness’s draft report describing Pacheco’s unjustified use of force was never collected, and it did not become a part of the official record of the incident.

Following the assault and the inmate’s death, CDCR initiated an internal investigation. As the CDCR internal investigation proceeded, a federal grand jury began investigating federal criminal charges in conjunction with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Attorney’s Office. In November 2020, Villa was called to testify in front of the grand jury about her role and the actions of her fellow officers in covering up the unlawful assault. Villa lied under oath to the federal grand jury investigating the incident.

This case is the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation with assistance from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michael D. Anderson and Rosanne L. Rust are prosecuting the case.

Former correctional officers Arturo Pacheco and Ashley Aurich pleaded guilty and were sentenced to 12½ years and 21 months in prison, respectively.

Villa is scheduled to be sentenced on March 18, 2024. Villa faces a maximum statutory penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine for the count of conspiracy and the count of perjury. She faces a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each count of falsification of records. The actual sentence, however, will be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables.

Updated December 21, 2023