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Still no verdict at US drug-trafficking trial of El Chapo

February 8, 2019 By Tom Hays The Associated Press
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Jurors at the U.S. trial of Mexican drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman ended their first week of deliberations on Thursday without reaching a verdict, making the day more noteworthy for Guzman’s buoyant demeanor and the antics of a courtroom spectator.

After the jurors in federal court in Brooklyn were sent home, an animated Guzman beamed as he hugged and shook hands with his lawyers, as if celebrating as a moral victory that he’ll see another day in court Monday.

The anonymous jury had told the judge it wanted Friday off after deliberating over four days at a trial where there was some expectation of a swift verdict. But the fact that its work will extend into a second week isn’t necessarily unusual given that trial testimony lasted nearly three months and that it’s expected to reach verdicts on 10 separate counts.

Earlier in the day with the jury behind closed doors, a man showed up in the courtroom falsely claiming to be a Guzman relative and trying to use seating reserved for family members. He was removed to an overflow courtroom before deputy U.S. marshals took him away in handcuffs past startled onlookers. Authorities later revealed he had outstanding warrants for misdemeanor harassment charges unrelated to the Guzman.

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The scene occurred amid a trial that has provided plenty of riveting details of its own. The evidence included testimony from 14 cooperators, including many who described Guzman’s willingness to use violence against enemies of a cartel that prosecutors say smuggled at least 200 tons (181 metric tons) of cocaine into the U.S. over two decades.

The defense has accused the cooperators of making him a scapegoat for their own crimes.

On Thursday, the jury sent a note asking to review the transcript of testimony of one of the more colorful cooperating witnesses, Juan Carlos Ramirez Abadia, a Colombian kingpin known for an extreme plastic-surgery makeover meant to hide his identity.

Jurors appeared to be zeroing the cooperator’s description of how he supplied massive amounts of cocaine to the Sinaloa cartel in the early 2000s via boats and planes. The evidence is central to the case’s top count, which accuses the defendant of engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise.

Guzman, 61, attained near-mythical status by escaping jail twice in Mexico. He was recaptured and sent in 2017 to the United States, where he has been held in solitary confinement ever since.

He could get life in prison if convicted of the multiple drug-trafficking counts.

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