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Notorious Drug Kingpin ‘El Chapo’ Sentenced to Life in Prison

He maintains that he was not given a fair trial.

Notorious Drug Kingpin 'El Chapo' Sentenced to Life in Prison
ICE via Wikimedia Commons

Joaquín Guzmán Loera, the notorious drug kingpin known as El Chapo, was sentenced on Wednesday to life in prison for his convictions on federal drug, murder, and money laundering charges earlier this year. The sentence marks the end of a 30-year drug trafficking career that saw Guzmán rise to the top of Mexico’s infamous Sinaloa drug cartel.

Addressing the court at his sentencing hearing at the Federal District Court in Brooklyn, New York, Guzmán said he had not been given a fair trial and complained about being held in solitary confinement at Manhattan’s federal correctional facility before and during his three-month trial. He characterized his incarceration there as “psychological, emotional and mental torture 24 hours a day.”

“Since the government of the United States is going to send me to a prison where my name will never be heard again, I take advantage of this opportunity to say there was no justice here,” he said.

Judge Brian M. Cogan then imposed the life sentence, mandatory under federal law due to the nature of the “overwhelmingly evil” crimes, plus 30 years. Although Cogan did not specify where Guzmán will serve his sentence, he is expected to be incarcerated at the United States Penitentiary Administrative Maximum Facility, or ADX, in Florence, Colo.

Guzmán was also ordered to pay an astronomical $12.6 billion in asset forfeiture, the estimated value of the drugs he smuggled into the United States, according to federal prosecutors.

El Chapo Captured Three Times

Guzmán spent decades eluding both Mexican and U.S. law enforcement agencies, including two escapes from custody in Mexico. He was captured for the third time in 2016 by a binational coalition of law enforcement personnel and military troops and extradited to the U.S. the following year to face criminal charges in federal court. Guzmán had been indicted in separate cases in Tucson and San Diego in the early 1990s.

At his trial, federal prosecutors presented evidence against Guzmán that had been collected through years of surveillance and investigative work. Witnesses for the prosecution included 14 members of El Chapo’s Sinaloa cartel who testified against him.

Raymond P. Donovan, the agent in charge of the New York office of the Drug Enforcement Administration, who was involved in two of Guzmán’s captures by law enforcement, said that his sentencing marks the end of his reign, which was aided by bribery and corruption in the Mexican government.

“It’s justice not only for the Mexican government, but for all of Guzmán’s victims in Mexico,” said Donovan.

Attorney Says Prosecution a ‘Show Trial’

Guzmán’s defense attorney, Jeffrey Lichtman, repeated the claim that
Guzmán had not received a fair trial while addressing reporters outside the Brooklyn courthouse.

“All he wanted was justice and at the end of the day, he didn’t get it,” Lichtman said, adding, “It was a show trial, and it’s been so since Day 1.”

Lichtman also said that the $12.6 billion judgment against Guzmán was part of the government’s charade.

“It’s a fiction. It’s part of the show trial that we’re here for,” Lichtman said. “They’ve been looking for his assets for how long, decades?”

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