'El Chapo' to remain in solitary confinement, US judge rules

Mexico's top drug lord Joaquin
'El Chapo' to remain in solitary confinement, US judge rules

06 May, 2017

The judge similarly allowed his defenders' pre-cleared investigator to visit without an attorney present.

They also argued that they should be allowed to have contact visits with Guzman, while prosecutors say there is no area in the Metropolitan Correctional Center that is secure enough to let the two-time prison escapee sit next to his lawyers.

The 60-year-old kingpin, accused of running one of the world's biggest drug empires, has been held in solitary confinement since being extradited to NY on January 19. The judge ruled that he can instead write his wife letters, which will be screened to make sure he is not sending coded messages to run his Sinaloa cartel, plan an escape or order an attack on potential snitches.

Judge Brian M Cogan ruled Guzman must remain in solitary confinement, can have limited visitors and a limited ability to communicate with the outside world.

"We're extremely disappointed", Guzman's court appointed lawyers said in a statement, according to NBC News. Cogan said the restrictions were typical of solitary confinement and rejected a request for an Amnesty International visit.

He spoke directly to the judge for a portion of the hearing during which Cogan ensured Guzman was willing to keep his lawyers from the Federal Defenders of NY despite government claims they could be compromised because four potential trial witnesses against him had been represented in the past by the same office.

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"The Court would be hard pressed not to acknowledge that defendant's widely-publicized second escape from a Mexican maximum-security facility was accomplished under 24-hour video surveillance in solitary confinement", Cogan wrote in Thursday's ruling.

Michelle Gelernt, one of Guzman's lawyers, again brought up the conditions of Guzman's imprisonment at Friday's hearing, saying it was hard to review evidence because lawyers were only allowed to speak to Guzman through a plexiglass barrier.

The judge ordered U.S. prosecutors to "cease any communications with MCC staff" in which prison employees report back on the content of those meetings.

In March, the defense complained Guzman's health was deteriorating in custody, and claimed that he experienced "auditory hallucinations" and heard unexplained music.

Guzman was brought to the U.S.in January to face charges that he oversaw a multibillion-dollar global drug trafficking operation responsible for murders and kidnappings. If convicted, he is likely to spend the rest of his life in a maximum security United States prison.

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