Criminal Justice

Drug kingpin El Chapo convicted; defense case lasted half-hour

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Joaquin El Chapo Guzman

Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman Loera in U.S. custody after his extradition from Mexico in January 2017. Photo from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement via Wikimedia Commons.

Drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman Loera was convicted Tuesday following a three-month trial in which the defense case lasted only a half-hour.

Guzman, 61, was convicted on all counts, including charges of drug trafficking and conspiracy, report the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal and the Associated Press. He faces a mandatory life sentence for conviction on a count alleging that he led the Sinaloa Cartel in a continuing criminal enterprise.

According to AP, the federal trial in New York City was “packed with Hollywood-style tales of grisly killings, political payoffs, cocaine hidden in jalapeno cans, jewel-encrusted guns and a naked escape with his mistress through a tunnel.” Before that 2015 prison escape, Guzman had escaped from another prison in 2001 by hiding in a laundry hamper.

Prosecutors benefited because Guzman had wiretapped family members and other associates. The technician who set up the system gave it to the FBI, according to the Washington Post.

Prosecutors had presented testimony from 56 witnesses, including the technician. The half-hour defense sought to make the point that Guzman was a scapegoat for government witnesses who committed worse acts, according to the AP story.

A defense lawyer had argued in closing that the real mastermind of the Sinaloa Cartel was Guzman’s partner, Ismael Zambada Garcia, who has never been arrested. The lawyer, Jeffrey Lichtman, argued that Zambada had bribed so many Mexican officials that they focused their attention on Guzman, according to the New York Times story.

Another Guzman lawyer, A. Eduardo Balarezo, said in a statement that he is considering a possible appeal. He cited “unprecedented obstacles” to the defense that included Guzman being held in solitary confinement, voluminous discovery that was difficult to review, and reliance on cooperating witnesses who received deals for their testimony.

Now that Guzman has been convicted, prosecutors will seek to seize $14 billion in illegal drug profits, according to the Wall Street Journal.

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