New York City

Notorious Drug Lord ‘El Chapo' Sentenced to Life in U.S. Prison, Rails About '30 Months of Torture' in NYC

Ahead of his sentencing, the 62-year-old said he was denied a fair trial and decried "30 months of torture" at a federal prison in lower Manhattan

What to Know

  • Convicted Mexican drug lord known as "El Chapo" was sentenced to life plus 30 years in a United States federal prison on Wednesday
  • The 62-year-old was convicted in February of murder conspiracy and drug trafficking; he said in NYC court he was denied a fair trial
  • The drug lord also railed against the conditions of his Manhattan confinement, saying the past 30 months have been "torture"

The Mexican drug lord known as "El Chapo" was sentenced to life plus 30 years in a U.S. prison Wednesday for convictions on murder conspiracy and drug charges, culminating an epic trafficking case that even he acknowledged "the whole world was watching."

Wearing a suit and shaking hands with attorneys, Joaquin Guzman blew kisses to his wife in the gallery before railing against a federal New York City judge he claimed denied him a fair trial in a case "stained" by juror misconduct. 

He also complained about the conditions of his confinement at Manhattan's Metropolitan Correctional Center, where Paul Manafort and Jeffrey Epstein are also being held.  

"The last 30 months have been torture," Guzman said in Spanish. He said he doesn't sleep soundly, doesn't breathe well and doesn't see sunlight, also decrying the lack of visitation with his wife and daughters. 

"There is no justice in this country -- like any other country it is a corrupt one," the convicted drug lord said. 

Judge Brian Cogan said the life sentence was mandated and that he had no discretion. He said the trial record speaks for itself and the "overwhelming evil" is so severe, the evidence so mountainous, that the term is appropriate. 

The U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New  York agreed.

"Never again will he poison our borders," Richard Donoghue said after the sentencing. "We can ensure he spends every minute of the rest of his life in a prison in the United States."

Guzman's legal team requested the convict remain in New York City for the next 60 days at least; the federal government said it had no issue with the request. Cogan also said he had no issue and left it up to the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

Guzman's oldest daughter was in the courtroom as the sentence was handed down. Earlier, his wife was seen arriving at the courthouse building in a black SUV ahead. Wearing sunglasses a beige top and black vest, she was escorted inside by a legion of law enforcement and security officers. 

The goverment case, Guzman attorney Jeffrey Lichtman said, was "all part of a show trial" and said a vigorous appeal is already in the works. He accused the jury of breaking the law, and said Guzman's wife was "crushed" by it all. 

Guzman, 62, was convicted in February on multiple conspiracy counts in a sweeping drug-trafficking case. The guilty verdict at an 11-week trial triggered what the government says is a well-justified mandatory sentence of life without parole.

The evidence showed that under Guzman's orders, the Sinaloa cartel was responsible for smuggling mountains of cocaine and other drugs into the United States during his 25-year reign, prosecutors said in court papers re-capping the trial. They also said his "army of sicarios" was under orders to kidnap, torture and murder anyone who got in his way.

The defense argued he was framed by other traffickers who became government witnesses so they could get breaks in their own cases.

Guzman has been largely cut off from the outside world since his extradition in 2017. Wary of his history of escaping from Mexican prisons, U.S. authorities have kept him in solitary confinement at a Manhattan jail and under close guard at his appearances at the Brooklyn courthouse where his case unfolded.

Experts say he will likely wind up at the federal government's "Supermax" prison in Florence, Colorado, which is known as the "Alcatraz of the Rockies." Most inmates at Supermax are given a television, but their only actual view of the outside world is a 4-inch window. They have minimal interaction with other people and eat all their meals in their cells.

"They can bury Guzman under tons of steel in Colorado but they're never going to get rid of the stink of the trial," Lichtman said after Wednesday's sentencing.

While the trial was dominated by Guzman's persona as a near-mythical outlaw who carried a diamond-encrusted handgun and stayed one step ahead of the law, the jury never heard from Guzman himself until sentencing day, except when he told the judge he wouldn't testify.

Evidence at Guzman's trial suggested his decision to stay quiet at the defense table was against his nature, though: Cooperating witnesses told jurors he was a fan of his own rags-to-riches narco story, always eager to find an author or screenwriter to tell it. There also were reports he was itching to testify in his own defense until his attorneys talked him out of it, making his sentencing a last chance to seize the spotlight. And that he did. 

The U.S. government is looking to collect on a roughly $12.5 billion forfeiture order. To that, Lichtman said Wednesday, "Fiction. Part of the show trial." 

Copyright AP - Associated Press
Contact Us