Where are NYC criminals locked up
In the trial of the Mexican drug lord Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán, the twelve jurors came to a verdict: surprisingly, they found him guilty on all ten counts. Among other things: running a criminal organization, manufacturing and international distribution of cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and marijuana as well as the use of firearms and money laundering. Guzmán has to go to prison for the rest of his life.
CNN reports that he took his guilty verdict with no apparent emotion. His wife, former beauty queen Emma Coronel, had also shown no reaction. It was only when the jury left the room that Guzmán looked for Coronel's gaze and waved to her. The two smiled at each other, and Coronel put his hand on her chest.
Guzmán's defense attorney Jeffrey Lichtman urged the jury in his closing argument late last week to acquit his client. It was not "El Chapo" that led the infamous Sinaloa drug cartel, but its fugitive co-founder Ismael "El Mayo" Zambada. Lichtman went sharply into court with some witnesses for the prosecution. He called their statements "garbage".
Prosecutor Andrea Goldbarg, on the other hand, had demanded that Guzmán be convicted on all counts. Over a period of eleven weeks, she and her colleagues had called 56 witnesses to the stand, called hundreds of documents and dozens of tapped phone calls. They described the extreme violence and corruption within the drug cartel down to the cruelest detail. Most of the witnesses are held in US prisons. Among them were former partners and employees as well as a former mistress of the 61-year-old defendant.
According to the indictment, the Sinaloa cartel, led by "El Chapo", smuggled almost 155 tons of cocaine and large quantities of other drugs into the United States between 1989 and 2014. The US government also accuses Guzmán of being responsible for the deaths of thousands of people. The drug lord was arrested in Mexico and extradited to the United States in early 2017, where he has been in a maximum security prison in New York ever since. According to an agreement between the US and Mexico, the death penalty was ruled out.
For the US Prosecution, the trial in and of itself was a success. Guzmán had repeatedly evaded Mexican law enforcement in the past by escaping prisons. For the trial in New York, this not only meant high security precautions, but also guaranteed a huge spectacle, even by Big Apple standards.
Guzmán's way to court alone made headlines: In order to get the drug lord from the maximum security prison in downtown Manhattan to the Estern District Court in Brooklyn, the Brooklyn Bridge was temporarily closed on every day of the trial. In his homeland of Sinaloa, a mountainous state in western Mexico, "El Chapo" is venerated like a saint. There was great fear that with the help of his followers, the escape king might manage to escape one more time. During his last escape coup in 2015, "El Chapo" disappeared through a one and a half kilometer long tunnel - on a motorcycle provided by helpers.
"El Chapo" cannot apply for early release
The anonymous and strictly isolated, twelve-person jury of eight women and four men discussed Guzmán's guilt or innocence for around 35 hours over six days. A conviction on just one or some of the charges would also have meant years or life imprisonment for Guzmán. An acquittal seemed very unlikely in view of the sometimes overwhelming burden of proof. He himself remained largely silent during the trial, only speaking up to say that he would not testify. Otherwise, Guzmán's voice could only be heard on recorded phone calls.
Judge Brian Cogan has yet to officially announce the sentence. But for the most serious charge alone, participation in a criminal organization, the US criminal code prescribes life imprisonment. "El Chapo" cannot apply for early release and is therefore likely to remain in prison until his death. Guzmán is currently incarcerated in a maximum security prison in the Manhattan neighborhood of New York. It is unclear whether he should serve his sentence there or be transferred to another detention center.
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