Judge warns 'El Chapo' lawyer over bribes plea
A US judge admonished the lawyer of Mexican drug smuggler 'El Chapo' after an opening statement that riled Mexican presidents by accusing them of taking bribes.
The prosecutors had asked District Judge Brian Cogan to throw out the defence's opening statement at the New York trial of Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman, saying it was "permeated with improper argument, unnoticed affirmative defences and inadmissible hearsay".
Instead, Judge Cogan admonished Jeffrey Lichtman for having gone "far afield of direct or circumstantial proof". He said he would instruct the jury to focus on the evidence.
"Your opening statement handed out a promissory note your case is not going to cash," the judge said, calling the opening misleading.
Mr Lichtman had told the jury that US prosecutors had dreamed "for decades" of convicting Guzman, adding "the world is focusing on this mythical 'El Chapo' figure". He said his client was not the real leader of a cartel that sent tons of cocaine into the US.
He sought to shift blame to Ismael 'El Mayo' Zambada, another reputed trafficker in the cartel's leadership.
Zambada remains on the loose in Mexico, Mr Lichtman claimed, because of bribes that "go up to the very top", including hundreds of millions of dollars paid to the current and former presidents of Mexico.