Court Imposes Life Sentence on Mexican Drug Lord ,El Chapo , forfeits $12.6b
Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, the Mexican drug lord who twice escaped maximum-security prisons in that country, will spend the rest of his life in a U.S. penitentiary, a federal judge said on Wednesday after accusing him of “overwhelming evil.”
Guzman, 62, berated the U.S. justice system, and a former associate described how he had paid a gang $1 million to try to kill her before U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan imposed the mandatory sentence of life plus 30 years.
Cogan also ordered Guzman to forfeit $12.6 billion in a hearing in federal court in Brooklyn.
The judge said that even if the law had allowed him any leeway, he would have imposed the harshest sentence available, adding that any redeeming qualities Guzman might have were erased by his “overwhelming evil” actions.
A jury in February convicted Guzman of trafficking tons of cocaine, heroin and marijuana and engaging in multiple murder conspiracies as a top leader of the Sinaloa Cartel, long known as one of Mexico’s largest, most violent drug trafficking organizations.
Guzman, whose nickname means “Shorty,” developed a reputation as a Robin Hood-like figure that made him a folk hero to many in his home state of Sinaloa, where he was born in a poor mountain village.
He has been held in solitary confinement in the Metropolitan Correctional Center, a fortress-like jail in lower Manhattan. Cogan last month rejected Guzman’s request for more time to exercise on the jail’s roof, after prosecutors said that would risk an escape.
Guzman, who recently grew a mustache, complained about the terms of his confinement before his sentence was handed down.
“It has been psychological, emotional, mental torture 24 hours a day,” said Guzman. He alleged that the jurors on his case allowed media accounts of the trial to influence their thinking – an argument his lawyers have also made.
“Since the government of the United States is going to send me to a prison where my name will not ever be heard again, I take advantage of this opportunity to say there was no justice here,” he told the court.