Life Sentence Upheld For Assault On Pinal County Jail Officer


One of three men found guilty of a 2016 attack that nearly took the life of a Pinal County detention officer was properly convicted and sentenced to life in prison, the Arizona Court of Appeals ruled last week.

Robert Charles Villalobos III is serving a life sentence for conspiracy to commit first-degree murder after he repeatedly stabbed an officer assigned to investigate gang activity in the Pinal County jail. He was also sentenced to several back-to-back prison terms totaling 106 years for four other felonies related to the attack.

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Court records show Villalobos was in the Pinal County jail on Sept. 7, 2016 awaiting trial in a 2013 attempted murder case when two corrections officers walked by. He and fellow inmate Santiago Sanchez used metal shanks crafted from their cell bunks to repeatedly stab the gang unit officer while inmate Mauricio Moraga hindered the second officer’s response.

Moraga and Sanchez also received life sentences for the preplanned attack that led to the detention officer’s retirement.  The three inmates were connected to the Arizona Mexican Mafia, a gang active in the state’s prisons and jails

Villalobos’ attorney found “no arguable issues” for an appeal but asked the court of appeals to review the case for any error by the trial court. On Jan. 23, a three-judge panel ruled the evidence -which included jail security video- supported the jury’s guilty verdicts and sentences which were enhanced by Villalobos’ five prior felony convictions dating back to 2006.

In addition to the jail attack case, Villalobos is serving 15 years for attempt to commit first-degree murder for a 2013 incident in which someone was shot in the neck. Meanwhile, Sanchez is also serving time for a 2011 drive-by shooting, while Moraga was found guilty of manslaughter for a 2015 accident in which a young woman died.