The name “El Chapo” will forever be synonymous with violence, crime, and hard drugs. But for the man with the infamous moniker, forever will be spent behind bars.
On Wednesday, drug kingpin El Chapo, whose real name is Joaquin Guzman Loera, was sentenced to life in prison —plus thirty years—by the U.S. District Court in Brooklyn, for a slew of drug trafficking and weapons charges stemming from his tenure as the leader of Mexico’s Sinaloa drug cartel. He was also forced to hand over $12,666,191,704, the estimated total Chapo earned over decades of drug running and criminal activity. That figure, however, was deemed “conservative” by some prosecutors.
Justice Is Finally Served
While the landmark ruling occurred Wednesday, the near 12-week trial ended back in February, after the jury found the 62-year-old Sinaloa kingpin guilty of all counts on the sixth day of deliberations.
U.S. District Court Judge Brian Cogan, surrounded by bomb-sniffing dogs, high-level agents, and a number of other advanced security precautions, made the official announcement, citing “a mountain load of evidence” in the jury’s ultimate decision.
“The overwhelming evil is so clear,” Cogan said.
Guzman’s trial is one that has, seemingly, gone on for almost two decades, thanks to the drug lord’s penchant for escaping maximum-level security prisons. Back in 2001, El Chapo managed to escape prison by hiding in a prison cart. Then in 2015, Guzman made a ‘Shawshank Redemption’-esque escape through a manmade, mile-long tunnel. He was ultimately caught for a third and final time back in 2016. Guzman has been in solitary confinement ever since.
Guzman will, in all likelihood, be sentenced to ADX, an “administrative maximum” prison in Florence, Colorado.
Pushback from ‘El Chapo’ and his Lawyer
Despite an overwhelming amount of evidence—including testimonies from former business associates, victims, government witnesses, and even a former mistress—against Guzman, he and his attorney believe the former cartel boss wasn’t afforded a fair trial. Criticisms of the court case stemming from accusations of juror misconduct. The allegations, originally raised by a Vice News report, raise questions about the use of outside information within the court of law. The media outlet contends that at least five jurors followed the case through social media, despite a judge’s official orders not to.
“All he wanted, and he said to me from day one, ‘I just want a fair trial. You tell me that I can get justice here, I just want a fair trial.’ And at the end of the day, we like to pretend that it was justice—it was not justice,” El Chapo’s defense attorney, Jeffrey Lichtman said to reporters outside of the courthouse. “You can’t have a situation where jurors are running around lying, lying to a judge, lying to a judge about what they were doing and learning about allegations that were purposely kept out by the government.”
After remaining silent for the duration of three-month long trial, Guzman, through an interpreter, also raised questions about the integrity of the trial.
“My case was stained and you denied me a fair trial when the whole world was watching,” Guzman said. “When I was extradited to the United States, I expected to have a fair trial, but what happened was exactly the opposite.”
El Chapo’s defense lawyers have hinted at an appeal of the court’s decision, but it’s highly unlikely Guzman’s ultimate fate will change.