Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman will stand trial in Brooklyn, a judge ruled Tuesday.
Defense attorneys for the drug kingpin had tried to convince Brooklyn federal Judge Brian Cogan that he should move Guzman’s case to Manhattan federal court, so the drug boss could use a tunnel to get to court. The Sinaloa Cartel head famously tunneled out of a Mexican prison on a motorcycle in 2015.
But Cogan on Tuesday said Guzman’s estimated four-month trial will unfold in Brooklyn, though under top-secret conditions.
“The concerns are going to be alleviated,” Cogan told Eduardo Balarezo simply, adding that if the defense attorney agreed to sign a nondisclosure agreement, he would be let in on his client’s classified setup.
Outside court, Balarezo and co-counsel William Purpura speculated about Guzman’s new prospects, saying it was possible he could even become a resident of the courthouse itself.
“We assume that based on the court’s comments, the Marshal Service will house Mr. Joaquin here for the trial days,” Purpura said. “Whether he will return to Manhattan for the weekends, we’re not sure.”
“They’ve done it before, for other proceedings, where they’ll build a facility here,” the lawyer said, referencing Dandenys Muñoz Mosquera’s 1994 trial and conviction before Brooklyn federal Judge Sterling Johnson. Mosquera was indicted alongside Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar, though Escobar died before he could be brought to trial.
When asked to clarify if that meant that Guzman could be the federal courthouse’s newest tenant, or if he would be moved to a secure location nearby, Purpura responded: “I would think a facility very close to the courthouse.”
Per usual, the runty drug lord spent Tuesday’s proceeding staring longingly at his wife, Emma Coronel Aispuro, who sat in the gallery listening to the appearance via headset.
As Guzman gazed, Balarezo repeated previous requests that Cogan order prosecutors to produce a witness list for the upcoming trial, saying he was “preparing for this case with two hands tied and one eye closed.”
“Witnesses are going to be in danger when they are named in this court,” Balarezo said, faced with insinuations from prosecutors that he would hand his client the list. “We don’t believe the government has come to the court to say Mr. Guzman has threatened someone, or threatened to kill someone.”
“The risk is theoretical,” he added.
Cogan didn’t rule on the motion, saying he needed more time. He also said he’d release an order later this week about whether allegations of El Chapo’s prior murderous ways could be used against him at sentencing, should he be convicted.
As Tuesday’s proceeding came to a close, the judge begged the defense to reconsider their decision to not agree on a single piece of evidence — a move that is expected to prolong the already lengthy trial.
Purpura openly said his camp would consider agreeing to some stipulations, if the government agrees to drop some of the counts against his client.
“Any one of these counts carries a life sentence,” the lawyer said of the 17-count indictment on drug-trafficking charges against his client. “He has but one life.”
Guzman is due back in court Sept. 10, with jury selection expected to begin on Nov. 5.
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