Charges Filed In Murder of Atwater Correctional Officer

August 14, 2008 9:43:58 PM PDT
A federal grand jury returned a three count indictment today against the men accused of murdering Officer Jose Rivera.McGregor Scott/U.S. Attorney for Eastern District: "First degree murder, first degree murder of a correctional officer, and murder by a federal prisoner serving a life sentence."

U.S. Attorney McGregor Scott says those are the charges 43 year old Jose Sablan and 40 year old James Guerrero will face for the murder of Officer Jose Rivera. Scott says the cellmates attacked the 22 year old navy veteran with an eight inch, ice pick-like shank inside Atwater's federal prison on June 20th.

Scott: "Officer Rivera tried to escape, but he was run down and held down by Guerrero while Sablan stabbed him."

Scott says both men were transferred from Guam to Atwater for what he calls "crimes of violence," and that Guerrero was accused in the murder of another correctional officer. The inmates were each serving life sentences, but Scott plans to ask the U.S. Attorney general to pursue the death penalty.

Scott: "In my estimation, this is a death penalty case ... they're the worst of the worst, and that's why we have the death penalty is cases like this."

Rivera's grieving mother agrees ...

Terry Rivera/Victim's mother: "We just want justice and we just want them to get what they deserve. My son did not deserve to die."

Jose's murder not only devastated the Rivera family, it also sparked a nationwide outcry for better protection for correctional officers. The Federal Bureau of Prisons has said it is working to make stab-proof vests available and increase staffing, but the agency's Deputy Regional Director would not comment on those changes on Thursday.

Audrey Gill/Federal Bureau of Prisons Deputy Regional Director: "We are happy with the progression of this prosecutorial process and hope accountability and justice will be served."

The inmates are expected to make their first appearance in the U.S. Courthouse in Fresno within the next two weeks.

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