Brooklyn judge denies El Chapo’s request to speak in court
Trial date set for Sept. 5
Appearing in court for a status conference leading up to his September trial, a Brooklyn federal court judge denied a request by alleged Mexican drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman to speak in court on Thursday.
“I don’t need to hear from Mr. Guzman,” Judge Brian Cogan said in Brooklyn’s federal court. “I may yet hear from him, but not today because it’s too sudden.”
According to his attorney, Eduardo Balarezo, Guzman wanted to publically advise his family to pay for his lawyer and to address how strict prison conditions have hampered his defense.
“He wants the family to know they should pay his attorney,” Balarezo said.
When the judge asked why the family would disbelieve Guzman’s attorney to pay up, Balarezo quickly responded, “Sometimes people need to hear it from the horse’s mouth.”
The lawyer told reporters outside the courthouse that Guzman’s “friends” paid some of the lawyer fees but his family hadn’t made more payments.
When Guzman, 60, stood up in court ready to speak with a letter in hand, prosecutors called for a sidebar to further discuss the issue after the judge already recommended Guzman not speak.
Ultimately, the judge postponed the speech to another day, granted the defense sends a preview letter.
As he usually does during court appearances, the accused leader of the Sinaloa Cartel spent the majority of his court appearance staring at his wife and his 6-year-old twin daughters, leaving them with a prolonged smile and wave.
Prosecutors have produced more than 300,000 pages of evidence to date, including thousands of recordings and dozens of videos in preparation for the possibly monthslong trial set to start Sept. 5.
Cogan ruled on Feb. 5 that jurors will be anonymous and escorted to and from court by U.S. marshals for their protection and privacy, given the nature of the case.
Cogan ordered in court that both sides need to submit a jury questionnaire by March 23.
Since being retained as Guzman’s lead attorney, Balarezo has raised issue of his client’s difficult conditions at Manhattan’s Metropolitan Correctional Center. In addition to Guzman suffering from constant headaches and frequent vomiting, he is held up in solitary confinement all hours of the day he is not communicating with his lawyers through a glorified mail slot.
Still, Balarezo told reporters that Guzman is not interested in cooperating or cutting a deal with the government.
In his capo tenure, Guzman is accused of trafficking cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine across continents. He’s charged with criminal enterprise, international drug trafficking and kidnapping amongst other charges.
After escaping high-security prisons in Mexico twice, once in a laundry cart and once through a tunnel in his cell, he was extradited to New York in January 2017 to be tried in the high-security Brooklyn federal courthouse.
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