Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman will be tried in US in April 2018

Bruno Cirelli
Mag 17, 2017

A USA federal judge ruled on Friday (May 5) that Mexican drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, one of the world's most notorious criminals, will stand trial on April 16, 2018.

The 59-year-old, famous for twice escaping from prison in Mexico, now sits in solitary confinement at Metropolitan Correctional Center.

Judge Brian Cogan denied a motion on Thursday to move Joaquin Guzman to the general inmate population at the Metropolitan Correctional Center. Guzman's lawyers also sought more freedom to communicate with people in order to plan his defense, including his wife and potential witnesses.

With the judge having already refused to let Amnesty International observe the jail, Gelernt pushed Friday to have Cogan enter the prison himself to find a workable alternative.

The judge ruled that the conditions don't create constitutional concerns. He had previously escaped from two Mexican prisons.

After today's proceedings, a woman calling herself the eldest of Guzman's 16 children walked out of the courthouse next to attorney Jose Luis Gonzalez Meza, who previously represented El Chapo in Mexico. He spoke to the judge for a portion of the hearing during which Cogan ensured Guzman was willing to keep his lawyers from the Federal Defenders of NY despite government claims they could be compromised because four potential trial witnesses against him had been represented in the past by the same office.

Defence lawyer Michelle Gelernt, who has repeatedly challenged the severe conditions of her client's custody, asked the judge for permission to interact with Guzman in person rather than through a transparent plexiglass wall.

"We will continue to fight for his right to fair and humane treatment".

He twice escaped from Mexico's high security prisons, and so in the United States has remained in a 20-by-12-foot cell for 23 hours a day, on the tenth floor of the Metropolitan Correctional Center - known as the Special Housing Unit, or the SHU.

Cogan also wrote that prison staff had relayed their observations of Guzman's visits with his attorneys to prosecutors in the past, and ordered that such communications stop.

In March, the defense complained Guzman's health was deteriorating in custody, and claimed that he experienced "auditory hallucinations" and heard unexplained music.

The drug lord has twin daughters with his second wife, who is 30 years younger than him, and has a father who was jailed in Mexico for drug trafficking on behalf of Guzman's Sinaloa cartel. The Department of Justice said "Guzman faces a sentence of mandatory life imprisonment if convicted of the continuing criminal enterprise charge, and a maximum sentence of life on the remaining charges".

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