Former Calif. CO pleads guilty to charge of covering up inmate death
The inmate suffered a broken jaw and teeth, was taken to a hospital and died two days later
By Sam Stanton and Michael McGough
The Sacramento Bee
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A former prison guard charged with helping to cover up how an inmate at California State Prison, Sacramento, died in 2016 pleaded guilty Tuesday.
Ashley Marie Aurich, 32, of Sacramento, was charged in federal court in December with one count of falsifying records in a federal investigation.
A co-worker, Arthur Pacheco, 38, was indicted by a federal grand jury at the same time on two counts of deprivation of rights under color of law and two counts of falsifying records in a federal investigation.
Neither guard is currently in custody.
The two, who were both fired by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation following an internal affairs investigation, were accused of trying to cover up the circumstances of how a 65-year-old inmate they were escorting at the prison died on Sept. 15, 2016.
Court records say the guards were escorting the inmate with his hands cuffed behind his back at the prison — known as New Folsom — when Pacheco bent down and yanked the prisoner's legs back out from under him.
The inmate suffered a broken jaw and teeth, was taken to a hospital and died two days later.
Three other guards were present at the time, and immediately after the incident Pacheco and Aurich filed reports "intentionally concealing the presence" of one of the other three guards, court records say.
They also falsely reported that the inmate "spun to his left and lunged forward," breaking Pacheco's grip, court records say.
Aurich also was accused of reporting Pacheco had not "used immediate force" against the inmate and that the inmate landed "on his stomach face down," court records say.
"Aurich prepared the false report in order to deceive investigators, minimize Pacheco's conduct, and obstruct the ensuing federal investigation," U.S. Attorney McGregor Scott's office wrote in a Tuesday news release announcing the guilty plea.
The indictment also accuses Pacheco of filing another false report on a May 19, 2016, incident during which he used his department-issued pepper spray canister to spray a second inmate in the face.
Court records say Pacheco claimed he confronted the 54-year-old inmate holding a piece of glass, ordered him to drop it and turn around to be handcuffed.
"In order to stop (Victim 1) from self-harming himself and causing serious bodily injury or death to himself, I used immediate force, utilizing an approximate 3 second burst from my MK-9 OC pepper spray," Pacheco wrote in an incident report, according to the indictment.
The indictment says the inmate did not have a piece of glass and was cooperating when Pacheco ordered him to come closer and open his eyes, then sprayed him.
Aurich is scheduled to be sentenced April 12 and faces a statutory maximum of 20 years plus a $250,000 fine.
Pacheco, who has pleaded not guilty, is next scheduled to appear for a court hearing April 19.
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