El Chapo’s lawyer warned not to tamper with witnesses after ominous text
An attorney for the alleged drug kingpin Joaquin Guzman Loera, better known as “El Chapo,” is off the hook after texting a government witness, after Brooklyn federal court Judge Brian Cogan decided on Friday to give the lawyer a warning rather than sanction him.
Government prosecutors made a motion this week to impose sanctions on defense counsel A. Eduardo Balarezo after he texted a cooperating witness on Sept. 23, “You know the gov outed (cooperating witness)? See you in EDNY.”
Balarezo did not deny sending the text, but argued that it did not violate the protective order because he had gained the knowledge on his own rather than gaining it through discovery, according to court records.
Judge Cogan ruled that a sanction is not justified, but added that he is very concerned over the conduct.
“Although Mr. Balarezo claims that the text message was not malicious and did not convey any threats, his use of the term ‘outed’ plainly suggests that the government somehow failed to protect the witness’s identity from the public,” Judge Cogan wrote in his decision.
“Mr. Balarezo knew or should have known that his attorney friend would understand the message’s potentially serious implications, and would not only likely communicate the ‘outed’ comment to the cooperating witness, but that his attorney friend was probably obligated to do so,” Judge Cogan continued.
The judge then ordered Balarezo to avoid disclosing or acting on any non-public information related to the case in the future.
“Defense counsel are also prohibited from contacting cooperating witnesses, their lawyers, or their friends and family about the government’s efforts to protect those witnesses,” Judge Cogan wrote. “Any future conduct like the kind at issue here will constitute a sanctionable violation of this order.”
At a court appearance this week, attorneys for El Chapo once again asked for the trial date to be delayed in order to have more time to prepare. However, the judge has decided to stick with Nov. 5 as start date and noted that government prosecutors are also pressed for time to prepare.
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