Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman was Wednesday sentenced by a federal judge in Brooklyn to life in prison, marking a humiliating end for a drug lord widely said to be notorious for his ability to kill, bribe or tunnel his way out of trouble.
Guzman’s sentencing came five months after his conviction in an epic drug-trafficking case. He was given life in prison without the possibility of parole plus 30 years for his role in leading Mexico’s Sinaloa cartel. A life sentence was mandatory; U.S. prosecutors had asked that three decades be added onto Guzmán’s punishment.
In addition, Guzman’s sentence includes a financial penalty.
“The U.S. government says that conservatively, he’s taken in about $12 billion from the drug trade, and they want it paid back,” as reporter Alexandra Starr told Morning Edition.
The 62-year-old drug lord, who had been protected in Mexico by an army of gangsters and an elaborate corruption operation, was brought to the U.S. to stand trial after he escaped twice from Mexican prisons.
Guzman, 62, was convicted in February 2019 of charges that attract life in prison, proving he was “a ruthless and bloodthirsty leader of the Sinaloa Cartel,” federal prosecutors in Brooklyn said in a court filing.
“The horrific nature and circumstances of the defendant’s offense, his history and characteristics and the fact that the defendant committed some of the most serious crimes under federal law make a life sentence warranted,” prosecutors wrote.
Before his sentencing, Guzman complained about the conditions of his confinement and told the judge he was denied a fair trial. He alleged that the U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan failed to thoroughly 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.”
Prosecutors said through court papers filed that evidence showed that under Guzman’s orders, the Sinaloa cartel was responsible for smuggling mountains of cocaine and other drugs into the United States during his 25-year reign. They also said his “army of sicarios” was under orders to kidnap, torture and murder anyone who got in his way.
Guzman’s lawyers argued that he was framed by other traffickers who became government witnesses so they could get breaks in their own cases. They said that Guzman was the fall guy for other kingpins who were better at paying off top Mexican politicians and law enforcement officials to protect them while the U.S. government looked the other way.
The chances the U.S. government could collect on a roughly $12.5 billion forfeiture order are zero, Guzman’s lawyers added.
Since his extradition in 2017, Guzman has been largely cut off from the outside world.His statement in the courtroom on Wednesday July 17, 2019, could be the last time the public hears from him. He thanked his family for giving him “the strength to bare this torture that I have been under for the past 30 months.”
According to some experts, Guzman will likely end up at the federal government’s “Supermax” prison in Florence, Colorado, known as the “Alcatraz of the Rockies.”
Colorado’s bleak Supermax prison is where the United States incarcerates the ‘worst of the worst’ criminals.
Most inmates at Supermax are given a television, but their only actual view of the outside world is a 4-inch window. They have minimal interaction with other people and eat all their meals in their cells.