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El Chapo sentenced to life in prison plus 30 years

July 17, 2019 Rob Abruzzese
El Chapo (right) reads a statement through an interpreter. Elizabeth Williams via AP

The saga of convicted Mexican drug kingpin Joaquin Guzman, better known as El Chapo, has finally come to an end as the leader of the Sinaloa Cartel was sentenced to life in prison — plus 30 years — in Brooklyn federal court on Wednesday morning.

U.S. District Court Judge Brian Cogan, who presided over the jury trial that ended in a conviction five months ago, also ordered Guzman to pay $12.6 billion as part of the sentencing.

Guzman, who didn’t speak in court at any point during his trial, spoke Wednesday and complained that Judge Cogan had denied him a fair trial because he failed to investigate claims of juror misconduct.

“My case was stained and you denied me a fair trial when the whole world was watching,” Guzman said in court through an interpreter. “When I was extradited to the United States, I expected to have a fair trial, but what happened was exactly the opposite.”

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The guilty verdict in Guzman’s trial automatically assured a mandatory sentence of life without parole. Throughout the trial, the defense repeatedly made claims that jurors were swayed by media depictions of the infamous drug smuggler. They also asserted that Guzman had been framed by other cartel leaders in order to get breaks in their own legal battles.

Prosecutors were able to convince a jury at trial that the Sinaloa cartel, under Guzman’s leadership, was responsible for smuggling huge amounts of heroin and cocaine into the U.S. during a 25-year span. They claim that the cartel used tactics such as kidnapping, torture and murder as part of their drug smuggling operation.

During the trial, Guzman was held in solitary confinement in a highly secure unit of a Manhattan jail and then conveyed to the Brooklyn courthouse under heavy guard.

Experts believe that he will likely end up at a federal “Supermax” facility in Florence, Colorado known as the “Alcatraz of the Rockies” where he will have only limited interactions with the outside world, even eating meals alone in his cell.

Previously, Guzman had escaped from two prisons in Mexico and flaunted his ability to skirt justice.

Assistant Attorney General Brian Benczkowski praised the efforts of law enforcement and the Department of Justice saying that, thanks to their efforts, “This notorious leader of one of the largest drug trafficking organizations in the Western hemisphere, the Sinaloa Cartel, will spend the rest of his life behind bars.”

With additional reporting from Tom Hays and Claudia Torres of the Associated Press.

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