Wednesday 21 November 2018

El Chapo's lawyer seeks to downplay drug lord's role in cartel

Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman (AP)
Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman (AP)

Brendan Pierson

A lawyer for Joaquin Guzman, the Mexican drug lord known as "El Chapo", said Tuesday that he believed US prosecutors had evidence that his client was a mere "lieutenant" in Sinaloa Cartel, not a leader as prosecutors claim.

Lawyer Eduardo Balarezo said at a hearing in Brooklyn federal court that prosecutors had disclosed evidence of statements suggesting Guzman, widely seen as the one-time leader of the international drug trafficking organization, in fact played a lesser role. He said prosecutors should be required to turn over the identities of the people who made those statements.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrea Goldbarg, one of the prosecutors, said Guzman's lawyers had not shown that the information would be material to the defense.

Balarezo said he would make a filing under seal with more information about Guzman's planned defense so that US District Judge Brian Cogan could rule on the issue.

Balarezo also argued that the trial, expected to take place later this year, should be moved from Brooklyn to Manhattan, where Guzman is being held, a motion he first made in a court filing in May. He said the heavily guarded motorcade used to transport Guzman across the Brooklyn Bridge would prejudice jurors against Guzman by suggesting that he is dangerous.

Cogan did not rule on that request.

Guzman, 61, has been held in solitary confinement since he was extradited to the United States from Mexico in January 2017.

Mexican authorities captured Guzman and an associate in January 2016 by pulling over a Ford Focus they had stolen, after Guzman had fled through tunnels and drains from a raid on a safe house in northwest Mexico.

Six months earlier, Guzman had escaped through a tunnel from a high-security Mexican prison.

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