El Chapo Must Stay in Solitary Confinement at Manhattan Jail, Judge Says - NBC New York

Chief Investigative Reporter Jonathan Dienst on crime, corruption and terrorism.

El Chapo Must Stay in Solitary Confinement at Manhattan Jail, Judge Says

Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman was arrested in January after almost six months on the run following his escape from a maximum-security prison in Mexico

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    NEWSLETTERS

    'El Chapo' Smiles at Wife in NYC Court, Complains About Jail

    A notorious drug lord who was Mexico's most wanted man before he was nabbed after six months on the run following a dramatic prison break appeared in person in federal court in Brooklyn Friday for a pre-trial hearing as his lawyers complained about his jail conditions and exercise regimen. Katherine Creag reports. (Published Friday, Feb. 3, 2017)

    What to Know

    • Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman was Mexico's most wanted man, and was extradited to the U.S. in January

    • Guzman pleaded not guilty to charges he oversaw a multibillion-dollar drug trafficking operation responsible for murders and kidnappings

    • His lawyers have been fighting to get him out of his solitary jail cell in Manhattan

    Mexican drug lord and escape artist Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman needs to stay in solitary confinement at a New York City lockup to keep him from trying to control his drug-trafficking empire from behind bars, a judge ruled Thursday.

    In a written decision, U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan rejected a request by Guzman's defense team to order him released from an ultrahigh-security wing of a jail in lower Manhattan and be allowed in the general inmate population and receive visitors.

    Solitary confinement is needed "to ensure that the defendant cannot coordinate an escape from prison, direct any violence against cooperators or manage any aspect of the Sinaloa cartel's enterprise," the judge wrote. He agreed to let Guzman communicate with his wife about his defense but only through letters screened by federal agents.

    Guzman, 59, was brought to the United States in January and pleaded not guilty to face charges that he oversaw a multibillion-dollar international drug trafficking operation responsible for murders and kidnappings.

    Drug Kingpin 'El Chapo' to Appear in Federal Court in NYC

    [NY] Drug Kingpin 'El Chapo' to Appear in Federal Court in NYC
    Mexican drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman was set to face a federal judge in New York City on Friday after being extradited to the U.S. last month. Katherine Creag reports.
    (Published Friday, Feb. 3, 2017)

    Since then, he's has been locked up for 23 hours a day in a 20-by-12-foot cell in a unit that has held other high-profile, high-risk inmates like Gambino crime family boss John Gotti and several former close associates of Osama bin Laden. His lawyers had called the conditions inhumane and argued that restrictions limiting access to his lawyers and barring him from seeing or speaking on the phone with his wife violated his constitutional rights.

    The government had countered that the conditions are appropriate for someone who escaped twice from prison in Mexico, including once through a milelong 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 direct his cronies and orchestrate his breakouts.

    The judge ruled tjat the conditions don't create constitutional concerns. He also rejected a demand to allow an Amnesty International representative inside the jail to assess allegations that the conditions are abusive, saying the human rights group's involvement would be "superfluous."

    Lawyers for Guzman had no immediate comment Thursday.

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