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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

May 26, 2019   |   Ithaca, NY

Opinion

National Recap: El Chapo found guilty of all charges

Following a three-month trial, drug kingpin Joaquín Guzmán — better known as El Chapo — was found guilty on all 10 counts of drug trafficking Feb. 12.

The long and contentious trial in New York revealed many of the inner workings of his Sinaloa cartel, a major operation that has shipped tons of drugs into the U.S. and has contributed to the violence and corruption in Mexico for decades. He now faces the possibility of life in prison, which will be confirmed at his sentence hearing scheduled for June 25.  

The trial started Nov. 13, 2018, under intense security and was heavily monitored by the media. Guzmán was arrested in January 2016 after escaping from prison through a tunnel five months earlier. Due to his numerous escapes and evasions of the law, he was known as a legendary outlaw and was a sort of dark-folk hero known for his innovative and harsh tactics. During his time as the head of the Sinaloa cartel, Guzmán managed to pocket $14 billion, even receiving recognition from Forbes Magazine in 2009 in its listing of the wealthiest people in the world.

During the trial, several disturbing revelations about Guzmán’s life were revealed. The trial included testimony from 56 witnesses, 14 of whom worked with Guzmán in the past. Some of the allegations against Guzmán were that he frequently drugged and raped young girls, kept a “murder room” in his mansion, frequently used his mistresses to expand his narcotics operation and brutally beat and tortured enemies before killing them.

In addition to being disturbing, some of the allegations against Guzmán also revealed the operatic and altogether strange nature of life inside a cartel. Some of the testimonies also included accounts of traffickers using bazookas for target practice, mariachi bands playing outside of jail cells, a diamond-encrusted pistol and an assassination attempt via an arepa laced with cyanide.

Jeffrey Lichtman, a member of Guzmán’s defense team, said his legal team worked tirelessly to combat an onslaught of evidence gathered against the defendant. The team also said it plans to file an appeal on numerous issues from the trial.

Richard Donoghue, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District, said he is confident that the court’s verdict will put an end to Guzmán’s career as a drug lord.

“It is a sentence of which there is no escape and no return,” Donoghue said.

Following the verdict, Guzmán showed no signs of being distraught or upset by the court’s decision. After the jurors left the room, he smiled and waved to his wife, Emma Coronel, and they exchanged a gesture, according to reporting from CNN. When asked how she felt about the verdict, Coronel replied “Good, thank you,” in Spanish.

Following the verdict, a member of Guzmán’s legal team, defense attorney Michael Lambert, told CNN that Guzmán seemed rather upbeat and undisturbed by the court’s decision.

“He’s a fighter,” Lambert said. “He’s not done yet by far.”

Meredith Burke can be reached at mburke@ithaca.edu or via Twitter: @meredithsburke