Home Columnists El Chapo's Lawyers Grasping at Straws to Delay Mexican Kingpin's April Trial

El Chapo's Lawyers Grasping at Straws to Delay Mexican Kingpin's April Trial

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Sylvia Longmire IHSBy Sylvia Longmire
Contributor, In Homeland Security

The new year has begun, which means that former Sinaloa cartel kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán is only a few short months away from his April 2018 trial date. However, his lawyers continue to look for creative ways to postpone the inevitable.

According to NBC4 in New York, Guzmán’s attorneys asked a Brooklyn judge for a delay to the start of the trial because they hadn’t been paid yet. As a result, they didn’t have the funds to prepare for an April trial date.

Guzmán’s lead defense lawyer, Eduardo Balarezo, wrote in a filing, “Due to Mr. Guzmán’s conditions of confinement and his inability to speak with specific family members to request that counsel’s fees be paid, the defense is insufficiently funded at this time to be properly prepared for a trial less than four months away.”

Defense Lawyer Says Guzmán’s Mental State Has Deteriorated

Balarezo has made several other reports of Guzmán’s less-than-ideal conditions in the Manhattan maximum-security jail where he is being kept.

In November 2017, Balarezo said he has seen a “marked deterioration” in his client’s mental state — including hallucinations, depression and memory loss — due to stringent jail conditions. Coincidentally, Balarezo suggested in a letter that if the alleged deterioration continues, Guzmán might be found incompetent to stand trial.

The former drug trafficking mastermind has complained about the conditions of his imprisonment ever since he was recaptured for the last time in Mexico in January 2016. Prior to his extradition last year, Guzmán said that guards in the maximum-security Mexican prison where he was being held abused him verbally and physically, as well as depriving him of sleep and seeing his family.

Guzmán’s Contact with Family Members, Fellow Prisoners and Others Is Severely Restricted

In May 2017, a U.S. federal judge ruled that he could write letters to his wife, but could not visit with her. That decision came as a response to more complaints from his lawyers.

It comes as no surprise that judges and the prosecution in Guzmán’s case are taking no chances with him, considering his extensive history of escaping from prison. During a seven-year stint in a Mexican maximum-security facility, he also managed to maintain control over the Sinaloa Federation drug empire from his prison cell. U.S. authorities are well aware of the capabilities of Guzmán and his associates, so limiting his communication with the outside world is part of their security strategy.

U.S. authorities are even limiting his contact with other prisoners by keeping him in his cell 23 hours a day and denying his requests to be placed in the general population. In a May 2017 ruling, District Judge Brian Cogan wrote, “The Court would be hard-pressed not to acknowledge that [the] defendant’s widely publicized second escape from a Mexican maximum-security facility was accomplished under 24-hour video surveillance in solitary confinement.” He added, “The risk attendant to placing him in the general prison population is not lost on the Court.”

New Filing Would Push Guzmán Trial to Late Summer or Fall 2018

The Christmas Eve filing by Guzmán’s attorneys requested a trial delay of four months, meaning a new trial date around August or September 2018. Prosecutors have said the trial could take three to four months, due to the mountain of evidence involved. Guzmán is due back in court this month.

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