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Federal prisoner pleads guilty to killing corrections officer

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A federal prisoner, who is already serving a life sentence in federal prison, pleaded guilty on Tuesday in Atwater, Calif., to murder for his role stabbing and killing a federal corrections officer at a penitentiary in Central California, according to U.S. Justice Department officials.

The 48-year-old James Ninete Leon Guerrero, of Guam, entered the guilty plea and is expected to testify against his accomplice during his murder trial.

U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner for the Eastern District of California said in a statement that Guerrero held Officer Jose Rivera down at the U.S. Penitentiary in Atwater in 2008 while his fellow inmate, Jose Cabrera Sablan, repeatedly stabbed the officer more than 20 times with an eight-inch "shank."

The 22-year-old Rivera, who served in the U.S. Navy before becoming a corrections officer, was performing the daily headcount of prisoners when he was attacked and killed. Ironically, Officer Rivera served two tours in Iraq at the height of the insurgency, yet returned home unscathed only to be murdered on U.S. soil.

While law enforcement and corrections officers believe this is a death penalty case, prosecutors say under the plea agreement, the sentencing judge will give Guerrero another life sentence.

Guerrero was serving a life prison sentence in connection with an armed bank robbery. His accomplice in the killing of Officer Rivera, Sablan, is scheduled to go on trial next month.

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