Inmate convicted of prison officer assault

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WALLA WALLA — A jury convicted a Washington State Penitentiary inmate of attacking and stabbing a correctional sergeant last year.

Castulo J. Rivas, 46, went on trial Monday for first-degree assault.

Rivas, who is already serving life without parole, was returned to the penitentiary Thursday after the conclusion of his trial.

Officials said Rivas and a second inmate, John Valdez, 45, assaulted Sgt. James Bailey on the evening of Feb. 4, 2012, during a fight in the commons area of a living unit in the penitentiary’s West Complex.

Bailey had confronted Rivas and Valdez, who were armed with handmade, sharpened objects, and ordered them to drop their weapons.

Valdez stabbed Bailey in the head and neck area, where the weapon struck a metal insignia on Bailey’s uniform.

Rivas then attacked Bailey, who was on the floor by that time, stabbing him several times in the chest with a sharpened toothbrush and punching him in the ribs. But Bailey suffered only bumps and bruises, reportedly because his memo pad prevented the toothbrush from penetrating his body.

Valdez was convicted of custodial assault after a jury trial in May and was sentenced to a five-year prison term.

That term would be served only if for some reason he would be spared his three-strikes sentence of life without parole for assaults and arson in the 1980s and ’90s, Walla Walla County Prosecuting Attorney Jim Nagle said.

“This was a very serious crime; it could have resulted in the death of a correctional officer,” he said, adding that if Rivas’s previous life-without-parole sentence were ever lifted on a future appeal then his assault on Bailey would be a “crime without consequences.”

“The correctional officers at the penitentiary are entitled to equal protection of the law when they become victims of serious assaults,” Nagle said.

Andy Porter can be reached at andyporter@wwub.com or 526-8318.

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