Mexican drug lord, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, has been found guilty of running a murderous criminal enterprise that smuggled tons of drugs into the United States and has been sentenced by a U.S. judge on Wednesday to spend the rest of his life in prison.
Guzman berated the U.S. justice system, and a former associate described how he had paid a gang $1 million to kill her before U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan imposed the mandatory sentence of life plus 30 years. Guzman was also ordered to forfeit $12.6 billion, prosecutors said, at a hearing in federal court in Brooklyn.
Guzman, 62, was found guilty by a jury in February of trafficking tons of cocaine, heroin and marijuana and engaging in multiple murder conspiracies as a top leader of the Sinaloa Cartel, long known as one of Mexico’s largest and most violent drug trafficking organizations.
Guzman, the leader of the Sinaloa Cartel, whose nickname means “Shorty,” developed a reputation as a Robin Hood-like figure which made him a folk hero to many in his home state of Sinaloa, where he was born in a poor mountain village.
Reuters reports that he has been held in solitary confinement in the Metropolitan Correctional Center, a fortress-like jail in lower Manhattan.
Judge Cohan last month rejected his request for more time to exercise on the jail’s roof after prosecutors said that would risk an escape.
Guzman, who recently also grew a moustache, complained about the terms of his confinement before his sentence was handed down.
“It has been psychological, emotional, mental torture 24 hours a day,” said Guzman. He alleged that the jurors on his case allowed media accounts of the trial to influence their thinking – an argument his lawyers have also made.
“The United States is no better than any other corrupt country,” Guzman said, adding that prosecutors wanted to send him to “a prison where I will never be heard from again.”
Before he was finally captured in 2016, Guzman twice escaped maximum-security prisons in Mexico, drawing international. He was extradited to the United States to face trial in January 2017.
Guzman made a name for himself as a trafficker in the 1980s by digging tunnels under the U.S.-Mexico border that allowed him to smuggle drugs more quickly than any of his rivals. He amassed power during the 1990s and 2000s through often bloody wars with rivals, eventually becoming the best-known leader of the Sinaloa Cartel.
His 11-week trial, which featured testimony from more than a dozen former associates of Guzman who had made deals to cooperate with prosecutors, offered the public an unprecedented look at the cartel’s inner workings.