U.S. Attorney Richard Donoghue says this is a victory for the American and Mexican people along with anyone who has lost a loved one to the “black hole of addiction.”
NEW YORK – Hey, Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán – you’ve just been convicted on criminal drug charges that have you facing life in prison. Where are you going now?
Definitely not Disney World.
And an escape from U.S. authorities — like the two jailbreaks in his native Mexico that made the Sinaloa drug cartel leader internationally notorious — seems far-fetched.
Nonetheless, the 61-year old drug lord’s days in a courtroom aren’t over.
U.S. District Court Judge Brian Cogan on Tuesday set a tentative June 25 sentencing date for Guzmán.
The timetable could change. Nonetheless, the sentencing could mean one more middle-of-the-night trip from Manhattan to Brooklyn, across a closed-down Brooklyn Bridge with a heavily fortified police escort and helicopters following above.
A federal jury on Tuesday found Guzmán guilty of all 10 criminal counts against him, including drug trafficking, weapons violations and operating a continuing criminal enterprise. The last charge carries a sentence of up to life in prison.
His legal team immediately vowed to appeal the conviction. Defense lawyers plan to argue in part that they were improperly limited in their cross-examination of the 14 former cartel associates who testified against the former boss.
They also plan to challenge legal issues surrounding Guzmán’s extradition from Mexico to stand trial in the U.S.
The appeal would be filed in the Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals after Guzmán’s sentencing. Appeals can take months to resolve.
Defense attorney Jeffrey Lichtman said Guzmán remained optimistic about his future.
Prosecutors presented a mountain of evidence that showed Guzmán oversaw the shipment of tons of cocaine and other drugs into the United States, generating billions of dollars in profits for the cartel.
The case covered virtually all facets of Guzmán’s criminal career. But he’s still a defendant in similar federal indictments in Florida, Texas and elsewhere.
Although it seems unlikely that those cases will now go forward, federal officials pointedly declined to take questions about Tuesday’s verdicts because the other prosecutions remain open.
Prosecutors have started presenting evidence to jurors in the trial of the notorious drug smuggler known as El Chapo by giving them a video tour of a tunnel between Mexico and an Arizona warehouse. (Nov. 14)
The prospect of where Guzmán would serve his sentence might undo at least some of the upbeat resolve touted by his defense team.
Federal officials haven’t publicly discussed prison plans for Guzmán. But one possibility within the U.S. Bureau of Prisons system is the so-called Supermax, the U.S. penitentiary in Florence, Colorado.
It’s the highest-security prison in the nation. It’s the current home of Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev; Ramzi Ahmed Yousef, the organizer of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing; and Theodore Kaczynski – the Unabomber.
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