Mexican drug kingpin Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman was extradited to New York in January to face justice in the American court system. But a Brooklyn federal judge declared Tuesday that the trial will be administered as secretly as possible. Justice Brian Cogan instituted a protective order on information pertaining to the trial, The New York Post reports, citing the risk of people outside the courtroom—particularly members of Mexico's sprawling cartel landscape—attempting to influence proceedings.
"Given defendant's alleged history of using individuals, including professional individuals, to further his alleged enterprise," Cogan wrote, "the risk presented by permitting foreign nationals, whether attorneys, investigators, or others who could be members or associates of the Sinaloa Cartel, to join the Defense Counsel's Team without appropriate vetting is significant."
As a result, anyone looking to join Guzman's defense team will need to get a security clearance, and case-related information will be distributed on a strict "need-to-know" basis. The government has two weeks to find a "firewall counsel" to mediate the flow of information before the case can proceed. In the meantime, Guzman will remain in the maximum security Manhattan Metropolitan Detention Center, which has been described as "worse than Guantanamo."
The judge's rationale seems plausible, but some cartel experts have their own suspicions. That includes Don Winslow, who told Esquire in an interview last month that it was very unlikely the trial would be public because, "Guzman has a lot to say, much of which would be embarrassing to both the Mexican and U.S. governments." Winslow continued:
His knowledge is the only card he has to play now, and there are a lot of people on both sides of the border who don't want to see those cards laid out on a public table. Would he name names as to whom he paid off? Would the Mexican government's favoritism toward the Sinaloa Cartel come to light, with revelations that equipment bought with the US-funded Merida Initiative went to fight the cartel's enemies? Would he talk about U.S. intelligence used to guide raids against everyone but the Sinaloa Cartel?
A public trial? I'm not convinced there's going to be a trial at all. Let's see if he actually comes to trial or strikes a deal instead. My expectation is that the entire trial will be sealed from the public, just as the trial was for major trafficker Osiel Contreras in 2010. If there is a trial, the media should fight being locked out very hard, because what Guzman says would be front page news all over the world.
Winslow is known for his street-wise cynicism—after all, he doesn't believe the official accounts of either of El Chapo's escapes from maximum security prisons in Mexico. But he's right so far as it pertains to the case: The trial, it seems, will not be public.
I don't think a ranking figure like Guzman Loera has ever gone to trial..however, given his stature and near pop icon status, I'd think it's very possible they take him to trial and convict him, for the severest possible sentence. I think the trial will be public enough, if there is one.
Re: The El Chapo Trial Will Be Much More Secretive Than You'd Expect
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Maybe no trial.Maybe he will plead guilty at the 11th hour.Isn't he screwed either way,25 years but then again maybe he has nothing to lose so might try to get off? That's a lot of charges though to fight them all.