Court is on lunch break
KEY POINTS 1. First witness is called
2. Judge denies request to throw out defence team's opening statement
3. Guzman defence team accuse Mexican presidents of taking bribes
We'll see what happens when the trial resumes today at 9:30 am. No electronics in the courtroom so updates probably not coming until the afternoon break.
We're on lunch break at day two of the El Chapo trial. Here are some updates from court this morning:
Big thing was Judge Cogan calling the opening statement from El Chapo's lawyer yesterday "irrelevant and misleading," and reminding the jury that openers are not evidence.
Money quote from Judge Cogan to El Chapo's lawyer Jeffrey Lichtman:
"Your opening statement handed out a lot of promissory notes that your case won't be able to cash"
Judge Cogan reminded the jury that the "government's motivations are not on trial" and that the prosecution just has to prove El Chapo's guilt or innocence. Basically, he said the allegations about corruption in Mexico are irrelevant to the case.
Lichtman gave the second half of his opening statement, mentioned the Sean Penn interview. Said it was "a crucial piece of evidence in the case."
He said Chapo "was someone who for better or worse enjoyed the publicity, enjoyed the notoriety" and was trying to get his story out
-Damaso Lopez, El Chapo's former right-hand man who helped him escape from prison
-Cesar Gastellum, another El Chapo lieutenant who allegedly paid bribes to Honduran government
Late morning involved testimony about a drug tunnel found in Arizona where a ton of cocaine was seized. It sounds sexy but it was actually quite boring.
This afternoon we're expecting testimony from the first cooperating witness, possibly the brother of Ismael "El Mayo" Zambada. Stay tuned for updates.
Here is a court drawing of Assistant US Attorney Adam Feels during his opening statement. He is gesturing to Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman (second from right_ sitting next to his attorney Eduardo Balazero, at Brooklyn Federal Court.
When describing the tunnel, retired US Customs Agent Carlos Salazar said authorities used heavy tools to smash through concrete, only to realise later it all would have opened up on the Mexican side with the twist of a water valve.
"We didn't know the floor came up," he said commenting on the hidden hydraulics.
A defence lawyer for Guzman has named some of the former close associates of the El Chapo -- including his alleged head of operations in Central America -- who will likely testify against him.
Defense lawyer Jeffrey Lichtman said as part of his opening statement that he expected prosecutors to call Cesar Gastelum, Damaso Lopez and Miguel Angel Martinez, former drug traffickers who are now cooperating with authorities.
Gastelum moved tons of cocaine a week through Central America to Mexico for Guzman's Sinaloa Cartel, the US Treasury Department alleged in 2014. Gastelum was later arrested in Mexico and extradited to the United States.
An admitted former member of a Mexican drug cartel has identified Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman (wah-KEEN' ehl CHAH'-poh gooz-MAHN') as one of the organization's leaders.
Jesus Zambada named Guzman Wednesday while testifying as a government witness at the drug kingpin's Brooklyn trial.
Zambada testified Guzman partnered with his brother, Ismael "El Mayo" Zambada, to run the Sinaloa cartel. He said before he was arrested in 2008, he served as a cartel lieutenant. He described himself as "the leader in Mexico City."
He says Guzman operated a warehouse in Mexico City where cocaine flown in from Colombia was stored. Zambada also claims the cartel "controlled" an airport in Mexico City, and regularly bribed the government to give him protection.
Brooklyn jurors in the El Chapo trial were given an inside look Wednesday into a clandestine tunnel once used to smuggle 1 ton of “nearly pure” cocaine from Mexico to the US.
Federal prosecutors revealed photos of the wrapped coke bricks and secret underpass while their first witness — a former special agent with US Customs — explained how the underground passage linked a home in Agua Prieta, Mexico, with a building in Douglas, Ariz. — about “two blocks” from a US Customs site.
The agent, Carlos Salazar, said he discovered the 40- to 50-foot tube in May 1990 thanks to a tip from an informant who was paid $500. Salazar had also closely tracked a truck seen leaving the Douglas building and eventually led authorities to find 1 ton of cocaine at another location.
Authorities unearthed the opening of the tunnel on the US side by jack-hammering through a concrete floor.
The tube, which was outfitted with lights, was no more than 5 feet, 4 inches tall and 3 to 4 feet wide — enough room for someone the size of 5-feet, 6-inch accused kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman to stand nearly upright and smugglers to use little push carts to ferry kilos of cocaine between locations. The tunnel also was outfitted with a sump pump to keep water from pooling inside.
On the Mexican side, it was accessed from under a pool table in the home that lifted with a sophisticated hydraulics system, the same kind used in mechanic shops, Salazar said.
The load of cocaine that was recovered was packaged in bricks stamped with the labels “MR,” “OSOP” and “Yahama.”
“Those are the actual bricks or the kilo wrappings of coke that we discovered,” Salazar testified.
The drugs were tested by retired Drug Enforcement Administration chemist Robert Arnold, who said they came back as “nearly pure cocaine.”
“I found the cocaine was 95 percent” pure, Arnold testified.
It’s not yet clear how the secret tunnel is connected to Guzman, who had allegedly just been tapped the year before to lead the Sinaloa cartel’s Pacific Coast operations with his right-hand man, Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada.
Zambada’s brother, Jesus Reynaldo Zambata – one of the prosecution’s many cooperating witnesses – is expected to testify against Guzman later Wednesday.
We are expecting to hear Jesus, brother of Mayo to be the first on the stand again today.
Zambada — a 57-year-old trained accountant who was arrested in 2008.
As usual in a case this big, there will be lots of housekeeping each morning.
Excuse my lack of correct legal terms at times. Usually every evening following court, the defense or prosecutors will submit a request to the judge or motion.
Typically these are around what the jury can hear or forget. Many of these requests will reference a previous ruling by a judge in a previous case (not related) to show them to be right.
All this takes time and the "housekeeping" as I called it, is lengthy. The judge has to review and make a ruling. This is area is crucial and the defense will want to lay a lot of seeds here for seeking a future appeal.