Questions about lawyers' fees put El Chapo defense in limbo
Having dealt with defense attorneys throughout my entire career, I am highly suspect of defense attorneys espousing altruistic reasons to explain why they should be allowed to enter a criminal case as co-defense counsel. Especially, on behalf of someone as notorious as Joaquin "Chapo" Guzman, the reputed leader of the Sinaloa drug Cartel and a purported multi-billionaire. This case is attracting the attention of the worldwide media and has international implications.
NEW YORK — Private lawyers seeking to represent Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman in his U.S. drug-trafficking case failed to get assurances Monday that they'll get paid, leaving the Mexican drug lord's defense in limbo.
During a hearing in federal court in Brooklyn, U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan told the lawyers that if they took the case, there was no guarantee that prosecutors wouldn't later seize their fees if they could show that the money came from his estimated $14 billion in drug profits.
"I'm not going to pressure the government to create a carve-out for counsel fees," Cogan said.
Guzman smiled and waved at family members as he was led into the courtroom, but he didn't speak during the brief appearance.
Afterward, the lawyers told reporters that they still hope to find a way to represent Guzman. They said they were waiting for him to consult with his sister on Thursday — the first jail visit he's had by family member since he was brought to the U.S. from Mexico in January.
"We are looking forward, desperately, to come into this case and fight for Joaquin Guzman. ... The guy has a constitutional right to the best counsel he can get," said one of the lawyers, Jeffrey Lichtman.
Prosecutors have argued that taxpayers shouldn't have to pay for his defense. But they also said in a letter to the court last week that the government will not "grant a blanket prospective assurance" that it won't go after money spent on a private defense.
Michelle Gelernt, a public defender currently representing Guzman, called that position "hypocritical."
Lichtman is known for successfully defended John "Junior" Gotti, son of the notorious organized crime family boss, at a 2005 trial. The younger Gotti walked free after an acquittal on a securities fraud count and a mistrial on more serious racketeering counts.
The lawyer said he has met with Guzman on a weekly basis, hoping to defend him at a trial in April.
"He is charming, funny, highly intelligent. I enjoyed getting to know him. ... I don't judge someone by what I read in the papers," Lichtman told The Associated Press last week.
Another candidate for the defense team, attorney Eduardo Balarezo, represented Mexican drug kingpin and former Guzman rival Alfredo Beltran Leyva in a separate U.S. drug case. Leyva was sentenced to life in prison earlier this year.
Guzman has pleaded not guilty to charges that his drug trafficking operation, the Sinaloa cartel, laundered billions of dollars and oversaw a ruthless campaign of murders and kidnappings.
The defense has claimed that he's being held in inhumane and overly restrictive conditions at a high-security jail in Manhattan known for housing alleged mobsters and terrorists.
The government has argued that his strict jail conditions are appropriate for someone who escaped from prison twice in Mexico, including once through a tunnel dug to the shower in his cell. Prosecutors said that even while he was behind bars in Mexico, Guzman used coded messages, bribes and other means to control his Sinaloa cartel and orchestrate his breakouts.
AP reporter Claudia Torrens in New York contributed to this report.
Re: Questions about lawyers' fees put El Chapo defense in limbo
If the lawyers think he's not guilty which Chapo is pleading then what is the problem then to get paid then it can't get seized(or maybe Chapo's not a drug trafficker then and doesn't have the money to pay)?Did Alfredo's lawyer get paid and Alfredo plead guilty?I could see why no lawyer would defend Chapo pro bono or free as it would be extremely time consuming.What ulterior motive would a lawyer have defending Chapo Soliado (or anyo ne)besides $$ or a name for himself?
It's well known within the U.S. criminal justice system that defendants appointed a public defender don't receive as vigorous a defense than one provided by an attorney hired by the accused. The primary reason for this stems from the volume of defendants that a public defender may be representing simultaneously. In addition, public defenders don't have the resources or budgets to dedicate to the defense of just one person.
The private attorneys that want to defend Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzmán are counting on having their attorney's fees paid. They aren't blind to Guzmán's claims that he's a farmer with limited resources. They've seen the article a from a few years ago on Forbes magazine which named Guzmán one of the worlds wealthiest men. I can almost guarantee that when the attorneys approached Guzmán offering to represent him that one or both coached him on methods to pay their fees and subvert any attempt by the government to seize the money.
Quality defense attorneys don't represent defendants for altruistic reasons. They are primarily doing it for the money and notoriety that comes from representing high profile clients.
Someone could come in and pay Guzmán's legal fees sure. However, doing so may subject that person to a tremendous level of scrutiny by the Internal Revenue Service, the U. S. Department of Justice, or any one of the three letter federal law enforcement agencies, even the U.S. District Court itself. They would all be interested in knowing who this benevolent person was and where or how they were able to acquire their wealth. If there were any evidence to suggest that the money used to pay for an attorney came from ill gotten gains, the possibility rises that the money could be seized for forfeiture.
So the question arises, who would be willing to subject themselves to such scrutiny solely for the benefit of a known drug cartel kingpin? I doubt that an honest businessperson, who made their money through hard work and effort would because it would forever associate him/her and their company with a known drug criminal. What is there to gain by this association? Who would that leave to pay his legal fees?
Mica, a great question that I have often asked myself. I've read a couple of news accounts where Guzmán's wife, Emma Coronel, was quoted asking the following question that I am going to paraphrase, If my husband has billions of dollars where are they because I haven't seen them? This paraphrased statement is one that she often repeats whenever she talks with the media while playing the part of the poor wife of a falsely accused prisoner.
However, Guzmán's sons and daughter often post photographs of themselves with their collections of expensive imported sports cars, and diamond encrusted handguns or gold plated rifles. Alfredo and Ivan Guzmán also own a number of lions and tigers. His children continue to boast of their lavish and pampered lifestyles while their father awaits his trial in a federal courthouse. Obviously they have access to the enormous wealth that Guzmán accumulated over the years of trafficking in illegal drugs.
As for Emma Coronel, she is the daughter of Inés Coronel. The Coronel and Guzmán families founded the Sinaloa Cartel. He ran the cartel's operations in the Mexican states of Durango and Sonora. Inés also directed smuggling operations along the Arizona section of the U.S./México border. Coronel earned a reputation for his brutality against anyone who dared to oppose him. He and a son, Omar Coronel, were arrested by the Mexican military in 2013. Both are incarcerated in a federal prison in Hermosillo, Sonora Mexico.
According to a number of articles, U.S. law enforcement hasn't been able to locate any of the money that Guzmán made trafficking drugs into the U.S. and other countries. They say it's because Guzmán did not use any financial institution to transact business. So where did Guzmán secrete the billions of dollars that he's made over the years as head of the Sinaloa Cartel? I believe he has it hidden in a number of locations that are secure but from which his family can access to cover expenses. This is where I believe that Emma Coronel receives her money to provide for the twin daughters that Guzmán fathered. If she isn't receiving any money from her husband, her family will support her and the twins. Given her family's cartel ties, they have the wherewithal to assist her financially.
what method as to where it's not currently being asked for.
are you saying the government is not asking about emma's finances?
she is an american so the U.S. and Mexico -dual citizenship- could ask for audits. potentially she could be subject to a freeze of assets and eventual seizing of assets. US gets what is there and it could be tricky because mexico would want what is in mexico and a fight for global assets could commence. but even if assets were placed in her name or other family members and they cannot prove they acquired the asset with "good money" -and believe me it is impossible to hide from forensic audits-then all assets will be seized. that happened in the case of pancho colorado. assets were placed in his son and wife name. they were seized after the conviction. quite a bit.
The way I see it.... the more people that don't like me, the less people I have to please