Mexico’s most infamous drug lord, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, was convicted Tuesday of working an industrial-scale smuggling operation after a three-month trial full of Hollywood-style tales of grisly killings, political payoffs, cocaine hidden in jalapeno cans, jewel-encrusted weapons and a unadorned escape together with his mistress by way of a tunnel.
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Guzman confronted a drumbeat of drug-trafficking and conspiracy convictions that might put the 61-year-old escape artist behind bars for many years in a maximum-security U.S. jail chosen to thwart one other one of many breakouts that embarrassed his native nation.
New York jurors whose identities had been saved secret reached a verdict after deliberating six days within the expansive case, sorting by way of what authorities referred to as an “avalanche” of proof gathered because the late 1980s that Guzman and his murderous Sinaloa drug cartel made billions in income by smuggling tons of cocaine, heroin, meth and marijuana into the U.S.
WATCH BELOW: El Chapo seems in court docket earlier than his U.S. trial
Because the decide learn the decision, Guzman stared on the jury straight-faced. When the jury was discharged, he leaned again in his chair to catch the attention of his spouse, who gave him a delicate thumbs-up.
U.S. District Choose Brian Cogan lauded the jury’s meticulous consideration to element and the “outstanding” strategy it took towards deliberations. Cogan mentioned it made him “very proud to be an American.”
WATCH BELOW: Cross-border tunnel found between U.S. and Mexico
Proof confirmed medicine poured into the U.S. by way of secret tunnels or hidden in tanker vehicles, hid within the undercarriage of passenger automobiles and packed in rail automobiles passing by way of official factors of entry — suggesting border wall wouldn’t be a lot of a fear.
The prosecution’s case in opposition to Guzman, a roughly 5½-foot determine whose nickname interprets to “Shorty,” included the testimony of a number of turncoats and different witnesses. Amongst them had been Guzman’s former Sinaloa lieutenants, a pc encryption skilled and a Colombian cocaine provider who underwent excessive cosmetic surgery to disguise his look.
WATCH BELOW: Mexican media share footage of tunnels the place El Chapo was re-captured
One Sinaloa insider described Mexican staff getting contact highs whereas packing cocaine into hundreds of jalapeno cans — shipments that totaled 25 to 30 tons of cocaine price US$500 million annually. One other testified how Guzman generally acted as his personal sicario, or hitman, punishing a Sinaloan who dared to work for one more cartel by kidnapping him, beating and capturing him and having his males bury the sufferer whereas he was nonetheless alive, gasping for air.
WATCH: Joaquin El Chapo Guzman’s spouse Emma Coronel Aispuro leaves court docket after her husband was discovered responsible on all counts of drug trafficking costs.
The defence case lasted simply half an hour. Guzman’s legal professionals didn’t deny his crimes as a lot as argue he was a fall man for presidency witnesses who had been extra evil than he was.
Defence legal professional Jeffrey Lichtman urged the jury in closing arguments to not consider authorities witnesses who “lie, steal, cheat, deal medicine and kill folks.”
On Tuesday, Lichtman referred to as the conviction “devastating,” however he mentioned he was proud that the defence “left all of it on the battlefield.”
WATCH BELOW: El Chapo’s lawyer vows to combat on after responsible verdict
Deliberations had been sophisticated by the trial’s huge scope. Jurors had been tasked with making 53 choices about whether or not prosecutors have confirmed completely different parts of the case.
The trial forged a harsh glare on the corruption that allowed the cartel to flourish. Colombian trafficker Alex Cifuentes triggered a stir by testifying that former Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto took a $100 million bribe from Guzman. Peña Nieto denied it, however the allegation match a theme: politicians, military commanders, police and prosecutors, all on the take.
The strain at instances was minimize by a number of the trial’s sideshows, such because the sight of Guzman and his spouse, Emma Coronel Aispuro, displaying up in matching burgundy velvet blazers in a gesture of solidarity. One other day, a Chapo-size actor who performed the kingpin within the TV sequence “Narcos: Mexico” got here to observe, telling reporters that seeing the defendant flash him a smile was “surreal.”
Whereas the trial was dominated by Guzman’s persona as a near-mythical outlaw who carried a diamond-encrusted handgun and stayed one step forward of the regulation, the jury by no means heard from Guzman himself, besides when he advised the decide he wouldn’t testify.
However his sing-songy voice stuffed the courtroom, due to recordings of intercepted telephone calls. “Amigo!” he mentioned to a cartel distributor in Chicago. “Right here at your service.”
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One of many trial’s most memorable tales got here from girlfriend Lucero Guadalupe Sanchez Lopez, who testified she was in mattress in a protected home with an on-the-run Guzman in 2014 when Mexican marines began breaking down his door. She mentioned Guzman led her to a entice door beneath a bath that opened as much as a tunnel that allowed them to flee.
Requested what he was carrying, she replied: “He was bare. He took off working. He left us behind.”
The defendant had beforehand escaped from jail by hiding in a laundry bin in 2001. He then acquired an escort from crooked cops into Mexico Metropolis earlier than retreating to one in all his many mountainside hideaways. In 2014, he pulled off one other jail break, escaping by way of a mile-long lighted tunnel on a motorbike on rails.
WATCH BELOW: Inside El Chapo’s tunnel escape route
Even when Guzman was recaptured in 2016 earlier than his extradition to the USA, he was plotting one other escape, prosecutor Andrea Goldbarg mentioned in closing arguments.
“Why? As a result of he’s responsible and he by no means needed to be ready the place he must reply for his crimes,” she advised the jury. “He needed to keep away from sitting proper there. In entrance of you.”