Attorneys for jailed drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” are complaining conditions for their client are too restrictive since he was moved to a federal facility in Brooklyn and are hampering their attempts to mount a defense for him.
During a recent court appearance attended by Guzman and his team of public defenders, lawyers told the judge their client is held under 23-hour lockdown at the Metropolitan Correctional Center and only allowed limited visitors.
So restrictive are the rules alleged to be for the reputed leader of the Sinaloa drug cartel, he has not been allowed to hire a private attorney, and his wife has been barred from visiting him.
Guzman twice before escaped from maximum security facilities while he was being held in Mexico, on one occasion remaining on the run for several years before being recaptured.
“They’re taking extra security measures,” said Brooklyn Federal Judge Brian Cogan. “I think we all know the reasons for that…. The public history of this defendant is unusual.”
Still, Guzman’s attorneys insisted to reporters after the hearing that the restrictions remain excessive, pointing out that he was once even denied the right to a glass of water while meeting with his lawyers.
“I don’t think there’s any thought that if I have the guards give him a glass of water during a three-hour meeting that somehow that’s going to effectuate his escape,” attorney Michelle Gelernt said.
During his most court appearance, Guzman’s wife Emma Coronel also attended, traveling to Manhattan all the way from her home in Mexico.
“It has been very difficult,” Gelernt added. “This is the first time she’s seen him since he was brought to the United States.”
Guzman is charged with a litany of federal charges that include laundering more than $14 billion through his drug empire. Also, he faces charges of operation of a continuing criminal enterprise, conspiring to commit murder and firearm violations.
If convicted, the charges carry a sentence of life in prison for Guzman, who was recently turned over to U.S. authorities by Mexican prison officials.
Guzman’s attorneys also told the judge their client has the financial means to afford a team of private lawyers but has not been allowed the time to meet with any potential hires.
In early 2001, Guzman escaped from a prison in Jalisco in a laundry cart, remaining on the lam for more three years. Just over a year later, Guzman escaped again from the maximum-security Altiplano federal prison by crawling through an opening in the shower area of his cell block leading to a mile-long tunnel.
The reputed leader of a group the U.S. Justice Department describes as “one of the world’s most prolific, violent and powerful drug cartels,” Guzman smiled warmly when he spotted his bride, Emma Coronel
“This was so far the only way she has been able to see him,” Gelernt added of the 27-year-old American mother of her client’s five-year-old twin daughters.
Guzman’s next court date is scheduled for May 5. Mexican authorities surrendered him to U.S. officials on Jan. 19, and Guzman was first brought to court one day later. He spent the first year after his most recent capture fighting extradition after spending roughly six months on the run following his last escape.
Part of authorities being able to finally track Guzman down has been attributed to an interview he took part in with Hollywood stars Kate del Castillo and Sean Penn for a Rolling Stone interview.
Investigators have hinted they were able to use some of the correspondences Guzman had with the two to track him down in Mexico.
[Featured Image by Kevin Hagen/Getty Images]