Open main menu

United States of America v. Joaquín Guzmán Loera

The United States of America v. Joaquín Guzmán Loera is a federal criminal court case against Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán, a Mexican drug lord and former leader of the Sinaloa Cartel. Guzmán was extradited from Mexico to the United States in January 2017, where he pleaded not guilty to all counts against him in Brooklyn, New York.[1] His charges included drug trafficking, money laundering, and murder. His defense asserted that he was not the organized crime leader that the prosecution claimed. Trial began on November 5, 2018, and lasted until February 12, 2019, when the jury found him guilty of all counts. This conviction carries a mandatory life imprisonment, and he is scheduled for sentencing on June 25, 2019.

United States of America v Joaquín Guzmán Loera
NewYork-eastern.gif
CourtUnited States District Court for the Eastern District of New York
DecidedFebruary 12, 2019
VerdictJoaquín Guzmán Loera found guilty on all criminal charges.
Case history
Subsequent action(s)Sentencing in June 2019
Court membership
Judge(s) sittingBrian Cogan

Contents

Background and extraditionEdit

 
El Chapo in US custody, January 19, 2017

Mexico formally launched a renewed process of extradition to the United States two days after Guzmán was recaptured on January 8, 2016, from his second prison escape.[2][3][4] His lawyers mounted "numerous and creative injunctions" to defend against extradition,[5] and the process was expected to take from one to six years.[6] Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto did not have the authority to issue an executive order to immediately extradite Guzmán without due process.[7] A critical requirement for extradition was that the US had to guarantee that they would not use the death penalty against him if he was found guilty of homicide charges.[8][9][10]

Guzmán is wanted in Chicago, San Diego, New York City, New Hampshire, Miami, and Texas, in addition to having indictments in at least seven different US federal courts.[8][11][12] Charges in the United States include conspiracy to import and possess with intent to distribute cocaine, conspiracy association, organized crime against health, money laundering, homicide, and possession of firearms.[13]

Guzmán was transferred on May 5, 2016, to a prison near Ciudad Juarez, near the border with Texas,[14] and Mexico expected to extradite him to the United States by February 2017.[15] On October 17, Vicente Antonio Bermúdez Zacarías was assassinated while jogging near Mexico City; he was a federal judge involved in Guzmán's extradition proceedings.[16] On January 19, 2017, Guzmán was extradited to the US to face charges related to running the Sinaloa cartel.[17] The Mexican Government said in a formal statement, "The government of the Republic announces that today the Fifth Appellate Criminal Court in Mexico City ruled to deny the protection of the Federal Justice system to Joaquín Guzmán Loera against the agreements made by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on May 20, 2016, which permitted his extradition to the United States of America in order to be tried for various crimes, after finding that those agreements complied with constitutional requirements, the requirements of bilateral treaties and other legal rulings that are in effect and that his human rights were not and have not been violated by these proceedings".[18][19][20] Guzmán is housed at the maximum-security wing of the Metropolitan Correctional Center, New York.[21]

"Not guilty" pleaEdit

On January 20, 2017, Guzmán pled not guilty to a 17-count indictment in the United States District Court in New York.[22] Guzmán was charged in six separate US indictments. The charges include money laundering, drug trafficking, kidnapping and murder in Chicago, Miami, New York and other cities.[23] Then-US Attorney General Sally Yates called him the "alleged leader of a multi-billion dollar, multi-national criminal enterprise that funneled drugs onto our streets and violence and misery into our communities".[24] Guzmán, during his court appearance in the Eastern District of New York, pled not guilty to all of the charges and waived his right for all of them to be read aloud in court. Guzmán, who does not speak English, used a translator at the hearing. He was represented by two federal public defenders at his arraignment hearing.[25][26] Guzmán subsequently replaced his public defenders with Eduardo Balarezo, William Purpura,[27] and Jeffrey Lichtman.[28]

ProceedingsEdit

US District Judge Brian Cogan first scheduled the trial of Guzmán for September 5, 2018,[29] and then postponed it two months to November 5, 2018.[30] Though originally charged with 17 counts, the prosecution decided to reduce them to 10 to speed up the trial.[31] The jury selection process was agreed to be held in a rare closed session conducted in the judge's private chambers.[32] Meanwhile, one of Guzmán's three lawyers, Eduardo Balarezo, warned that keeping the jurors' identities secret was not necessary for their safety, and it would jeopardize a fair trial by implying that Guzmán is dangerous and guilty.[33][34] According to the lead prosecutor, Andrea Goldbarg, jurors' anonymity and an armed escort are necessary even if Guzmán is in isolation, due to his history of having jurors and witnesses killed.[34][35] The judge agreed to keep the jurors' anonymity and also to transport them to and from the courthouse by US Marshals and sequestered from the public while in the courthouse.[36] Similarly, the identity of the testifying witnesses was kept secret.[32][37] The trial was expected to last approximately four months.[38]

In a June 26, 2018, courtroom appearance, Guzmán's lawyers suggested that Guzmán may have been merely a lieutenant in the Sinaloa Cartel, not the leader, and requested more information about that possibility from the government through a Brady disclosure.[39]

Guzmán's trial started on November 5, 2018, in Brooklyn, when jury selection began. A large security surveillance was placed in and around the court building. Authorities closed the Brooklyn Bridge while transporting Guzmán to the courtroom from his prison cell; they stated they were considering other methods of transportation to alleviate the traffic disruptions, since the trial was expected to last several months.[40][41] It was confirmed later that week that he was being held at an undisclosed location in Brooklyn from Monday to Friday to avoid the bridge's closure.[42] Opening arguments began on November 13, 2018,[43] and closing arguments took place on January 31, 2019.[44]

In total, 56 witnesses testified for the prosecution, including cartel members and federal agents.[45] At least 14 of them were Guzmán's close associates.[46] Although much evidence was accumulated over the years, the FBI was able in 2010 to locate and persuade Guzmán's IT expert, Cristian Rodriguez, to collaborate with the US authorities. Rodriguez had set up software that logged the call history and locations of encrypted cell phones for roughly 100 members of Guzmán's organization and associates, but the FBI had been unable to crack the code. This collaboration by Rodriguez provided the FBI with additional detailed evidence of Guzmán's operations.[47][48]

On February 1, 2019, one day after the closing arguments, court documents were unsealed that alleged that Guzmán regularly had sexual relations with girls as young as 13, drugging them prior without their knowledge. According to the opened documents, a cooperating witness stated that Guzmán called "the youngest of the girls his 'vitamins' because he believed that sexual activity with young girls gave him 'life'".[49] The jury was not made aware of these accusations since the judge believed that they were unrelated to his drug charges. On February 4, the judge ordered the jury to start deliberations.[50]

VerdictEdit

The jury reached a verdict on February 12, 2019, after six days of deliberation.[51] He was found guilty of all counts and is scheduled for sentencing on June 25, 2019.[52][53] The first count of Continuing Criminal Enterprise (CCE) included 27 separate violations and was the biggest count in his indictment. It required a mandatory life imprisonment without parole. The jury decided that he was guilty of 25 of the 27 violations within the CCE charge.[54] When the verdict was read, Guzmán appeared to be stunned.[55] After the session concluded, Guzmán smiled and waved at his wife Emma Coronel Aispuro with a thumbs-up; she said that she was fine when asked how she was doing, and then left the courtroom.[56]

Cogan thanked the jury for their meticulous work throughout the trial. Guzmán's defense said that they were disappointed with the verdict but respected the jury's decision. They said that they faced unprecedented obstacles in defending Guzmán.[56] Defense attorney Jeffrey Lichtman told reporters, "This was a case that was literally an avalanche, avalanche of evidence. Of course we’re going to appeal."[57] US Attorney Richard Donoghue spoke to the press and said that this conviction was a success for the US and Mexico, including the families affected by the drug violence and addiction.[56]

Guzmán is expected to be imprisoned at ADX Florence, a supermax prison in Colorado, after he is sentenced.[58]

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ Paybarah, Azi (February 13, 2019). "N.Y. Today: Why El Chapo Ended Up in a Brooklyn Court". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved February 13, 2019.
  2. ^ "El Chapo Guzman: Extradition to US could take 'at least year'". CNN News. January 11, 2015. Retrieved January 11, 2016.
  3. ^ "Mexico moves to extradite 'El Chapo'". BBC News. January 9, 2015. Retrieved January 9, 2016.
  4. ^ Almasy, Steve (January 9, 2015). "U.S. indicates Washington wants 'El Chapo' extradited". CNN News. Retrieved January 9, 2016.
  5. ^ Ahmed, Azam (January 16, 2016). "The Manhunt for the Drug Kingpin El Chapo". The New York Times. Retrieved January 16, 2016.
  6. ^ Pestano, Andrew V. (January 11, 2016). "Mexico: 'El Chapo' extradition could take up to six years". UPI. Retrieved January 13, 2016.
  7. ^ "Presidencia no puede decidir extradición del "Chapo": PGR". Radio Formula (in Spanish). January 11, 2016. Retrieved January 13, 2016.
  8. ^ a b "'El Chapo': Mexico's Extradition Process Briefly Explained". InSight Crime. January 11, 2016. Retrieved January 13, 2016.
  9. ^ Estados Unidos no ejecutará a El Chapo Guzmán si es extraditado. El Comercio, January 12, 2016. (in Spanish).
  10. ^ "El Chapo, if convicted, would likely do time in 'Supermax' prison". Reuters. January 21, 2017. Retrieved January 21, 2017.
  11. ^ A look at the extradition process for 'El Chapo' Guzman. Eric Tucker and Alicia A. Caldwell, Business Insider. January 12, 2016.
  12. ^ Coming to America: Why the El Chapo extradition could take years. John Bacon, USA Today. January 13, 2016.
  13. ^ "El Chapo's extradition process set to begin". Mexico News Daily. January 12, 2016. Retrieved January 13, 2016.
  14. ^ "Mexican drug lord 'El Chapo' moved to jail near US border". Reuters. BBC News. May 7, 2016. Retrieved May 7, 2016.
  15. ^ "El Chapo: Mexico to extradite drug lord to US 'by February'". BBC News. October 14, 2016. Retrieved October 14, 2016.
  16. ^ Patrick J. McDonnell (October 18, 2016). "A federal judge who ruled on some of Mexico's highest profile criminal cases was gunned down in broad daylight". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 18, 2016.
  17. ^ "Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman Being Extradited to the US". Retrieved January 19, 2017.
  18. ^ "Mexico says it has extradited drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman to U.S."
  19. ^ "Top Mexican drug lord 'El Chapo' extradited to U.S."
  20. ^ News, ABC. "Mexico Says Drug Lord 'El Chapo' Guzman Extradited to US".
  21. ^ "Drug lord 'El Chapo' headed to New York jail from Mexico".
  22. ^ CNN, Ray Sanchez, Phil Gast, Catherine E. Shoichet, Evan Perez. "'El Chapo' Guzman pleads not guilty in US to 17 counts".
  23. ^ "Mexican drug lord 'El Chapo' faces life sentence in U.S. prison".
  24. ^ "Feds Announce Charges Against Notorious Drug Lord 'El Chapo'".
  25. ^ News, A. B. C. (January 20, 2017). "'El Chapo' Pleads Not Guilty in 1st Appearance in New York Courtroom".
  26. ^ News (January 20, 2017). "Chapo-Mayo Superseding Infictment" (PDF).
  27. ^ Restrictions Make Building a Team of Lawyers a Challenge for El Chapo. The New York Times. November 15, 2018.
  28. ^ Ex-Gotti lawyer rejoins El Chapo legal team. Priscilla DeGregory and Emily Saul. New York Post. August 19, 2018.
  29. ^ Judge pushes ‘El Chapo’ trial back to September. Emily Saul, New York Post. January 10, 2018.
  30. ^ Judge delays start of 'El Chapo' trial by two months. Daniel Uria, UPI. July 16, 2018.
  31. ^ Vázquez, Juan Alberto (February 12, 2019). "Estos son los 10 cargos contra 'El Chapo' en EU". Milenio (in Spanish).
  32. ^ a b In El Chapo’s Trial, Extraordinary Steps to Keep Witnesses Alive. Alan Feuer, The New York Times. October 1, 2018.
  33. ^ El Chapo's lawyer says anonymous jury would ‘poison’ shot at fair trial. The Daily World. January 25, 2018.
  34. ^ a b 'El Chapo' promises not to kill any jurors, lawyer says. Fox News. January 25, 2018
  35. ^ El Chapo Promises He Won’t Have Jurors Swimming With The Fishes. Mischa Pearlman. January 25, 2018.
  36. ^ The identities of the jurors in Mexican cartel kingpin 'El Chapo' Guzman's federal trial will be kept secret. Christopher Woody. Business Insider. February 7, 2018.
  37. ^ Who Will Testify Against El Chapo at Trial?. Alan Feuer, The New York Times. October 9, 2018.
  38. ^ 'El Chapo' case will still start in November. AFP. October 10, 2018.
  39. ^ Feuer, Alan (June 26, 2018). "El Chapo May Not Have Been Leader of Drug Cartel, Lawyers Say". The New York Times.
  40. ^ "Witnesses in crosshairs as accused drug lord 'El Chapo' faces NYC trial". CBS News. November 5, 2018.
  41. ^ "Trial for alleged drug kingpin 'El Chapo' Guzman begins under tight security in Brooklyn". USA Today. November 5, 2018.
  42. ^ Kanno-Youngs, Zolan; Hong, Nicole (November 12, 2018). "Trial of 'El Chapo' Poses Unprecedented Challenges". The Wall Street Journal.
  43. ^ Wanted: 12 People Willing to Serve as Jurors in El Chapo Trial. Alan Feuer, The New York Times. November 2018.
  44. ^ "Closing Arguments Heard in Trial of Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzmán". NPR.org. Retrieved February 3, 2019.
  45. ^ Prosecution rests in 'El Chapo' trial after calling 56th and final witness. Marta Dhanis, Samuel Chamberlain, and Bryan Llenas. Fox News. January 29, 2019.
  46. ^ Lam, Katherine (February 12, 2019). "Mexican kingpin Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman found guilty of running drug cartel, guaranteed life in prison". Fox News.
  47. ^ The key to bringing down El Chapo? Flipping his IT guy. Antonia Noori Farzan, The Washington Post. January 9, 2019.
  48. ^ Meet the Colombian IT expert who helped the feds snare 'El Chapo' Guzmán. Kevin McCoy, USA Today. January 9, 2019.
  49. ^ CNN, Ray Sanchez. "'El Chapo' Guzman accused in court documents of having sex with young girls". CNN. Retrieved February 3, 2019.
  50. ^ "El Chapo drug trial: Jury set to begin deliberations". NBC News. February 4, 2019.
  51. ^ Sanchez, Rey; Moghe, Sonia (February 12, 2019). "Verdict reached in trial of Mexican druglord Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzmán". CNN.
  52. ^ Feuer, Alan (February 12, 2019). "El Chapo Convicted in Trial That Revealed Drug Cartel's Brutality and Corruption". New York Times.
  53. ^ Day, Will (February 12, 2019). "Mexican drug lord Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman convicted on all charges". KFDI.
  54. ^ Hamilton, Keegan (February 12, 2019). "Breaking: El Chapo found guilty, faces life in U.S. prison". VICE.
  55. ^ Feuer, Alan; Parmer, Emily (February 12, 2019). "Inside the Courtroom: El Chapo Appeared Stunned After Verdict". The New York Times.
  56. ^ a b c "Mexican drug lord Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzmán is found guilty on all counts". CNN. Retrieved February 12, 2019.
  57. ^ "Violent, colorful drug lord 'El Chapo' convicted in U.S. court". Reuters. February 12, 2019. Retrieved February 12, 2019.
  58. ^ Gearty, Robert (February 13, 2019). "'Alcatraz Of The Rockies' awaits El Chapo's possible arrival; inmates include Boston bomber and Ted Kaczynski". Fox News.

External linksEdit