El Chapo Cries ‘There Was No Justice’ While Being Sentenced to Life in Prison

By Pilar.Melendez@thedailybeast.com (Pilar Melendez)

Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, the Mexican drug lord convicted of running the largest drug-trafficking organization in the world, was sentenced to life in prison plus 30 years on Wednesday. 

“Since the government will send me to a jail where my name will not ever be heard again, I take this opportunity to say: There was no justice here,” Guzman reportedly complained in Brooklyn federal court before U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan handed down his sentence.

Guzman, the 62-year-old former leader of Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel, was found guilty in February of all 10 counts brought against him, including running a continuing criminal enterprise and other drug-trafficking charges.

During his three-month trial in Brooklyn federal court, prosecutors alleged that Guzman, who twice escaped from prison in Mexico, sent nearly half a million pounds of cocaine into the U.S. over three decades and ordered the murders of dozens of people to protect himself and his smuggling empire.

“The long road that led ‘Chapo’ Guzman from the mountains of Sinaloa to the courthouse behind us today was paved with death, drugs, and destruction,” DOJ Assistant Attorney General Brian Benczkowski told reporters outside the courthouse Wednesday.

“But it ended today with justice. Mr. Guzman thought for more than 25 years that he was untouchable, that there was no problem affecting the Sinaloa Cartel that he could not bribe, intimidate, torture or kill his way out of. Justice was done today for the American people.”

El Chapo Convicted in U.S., Faces Life in Prison

At his sentencing, Guzman spoke to the courtroom for 15 minutes and bemoaned the “corrupt” U.S. government, saying it has subjected him to “psychological, emotional, and mental torture” during his 30 months of imprisonment. 

“When I was extradited to the U.S., I expected to receive a fair trial... and where my fame would not be a determining factor in the administration of justice,” he reportedly said in Spanish while describing the “cruel and inhumane” treatment he endured.

“I’ve been forced to drink unsanitary water. I’ve been denied access to fresh air and sunlight. The only sunlight I have in my cell comes through in the air vent,” he added.

Guzman also thanked his family for their “unconditional support through this long process.”

Last week, prosecutors argued in a sentencing memo for an additional 30 years on top of his mandatory life sentence, noting “the overwhelming evidence at trial” that “showed that the defendant was a ruthless and bloodthirsty leader of the Sinaloa Cartel.”

On Wednesday, Guzman was also ordered to forfeit $12.6 billion, based on the value of the drugs he trafficked. 

His dramatic trial exposed the elaborate inner workings of the Sinaloa drug cartel—from the organization’s I.T. consultants to how cocaine was packaged in waterproof rubber “condoms.” Several witnesses also described the violent nature of the cartel’s culture, including Guzman’s “hands on” approach to punishment and shocking evidence that the kingpin and his men often drugged and raped young girls. Some of those witnesses, including the son of Guzman’s partner and the cartel’s heir apparent, have been sentenced for their own crimes since the trial. 

One woman who prosecutors allege survived a hit ordered by the kingpin made an emotional statement at Wednesday’s sentencing hearing. Guzman’s wife, Emma Coronel Aispuro and twin daughters, Emaly and Maria Joaquina, were also inside the courtroom on Wednesday.

The courtroom dramatics, including one day where Guzman and his wife appeared in matching red velvet smoking jackets, sometimes blurred the lines between a trial and a cartel-themed telenovela. (Even Alejandro Edda, who plays Guzman on the Netflix drama Narcos, came to observe him in court.)

El Chapo’s defense argued that it was corruption in Mexico and his partner Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada that were to blame for the Sinaloa Cartel’s reign.

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“He bribed the entire government of Mexico—including the current president of Mexico,” defense lawyer Jeffrey Lichtman said of “El Mayo,” who has evaded capture despite a criminal indictment and $5 million bounty. “The current and former president of Mexico received hundreds of millions in bribes from Mayo.” Felipe Calderon, Mexico’s president from 2006 to 2012, denied the allegations on Twitter shortly after the trial.

Two days after the Feb. 12 guilty verdict, one of the anonymous jurors in El Chapo’s case told a Vice News reporter that several of the jury members had disobeyed orders not to follow media coverage of the trial, prompting Guzman’s lawyer to request a retrial. 

On July 3, Judge Cogan denied the request, ruling there “is no indication that this news coverage was prejudicial to defendant in anyway,” and there was “a mountain range of evidence” that directly implicated the notorious drug lord in the crimes with which he was charged. 

Since his 2017 extradition to New York, Guzman has been held in Manhattan’s Metropolitan Correctional Center. The prison, which houses about 800 inmates, has been home to many high-profile inmates like mob boss John Gotti and Bernie Madoff, who was convicted of orchestrating the biggest Ponzi scheme in history. The federal correctional center is also currently home to convicted serial sexual abuser Jeffrey Epstein and Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort. 

Prosecutors have requested to send El Chapo to Colorado’s ADX Florence, the country’s only super-maximum security prison. 

On Wednesday, the defense focused on the juror misconduct allegations from the VICE News interview, indicating they plan to appeal regardless of the sentence.

“This case was simply an inquisition. It was a show trial, and how it ended is exactly perfect for that description,” Lichtman told reporters outside the courthouse.

Could El Chapo Go Free?

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