What to Know
- Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, famous for twice escaping from prison in Mexico, is set to go on trial in New York in April 2018
- Guzman is accused of overseeing a multibillion-dollar international drug trafficking operation responsible for murders and kidnappings
- He was extradited to the United States in January and has since been held in solitary confinement at a lower Manhattan lockup
The renowned criminal attorney who successfully defended the son of mob boss John Gotti will represent notorious Mexican drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, who is accused of overseeing a multibillion-dollar international drug trafficking operation responsible for murders and kidnappings.
Jeffrey Lichtman confirmed to NBC News Tuesday he will be Guzman's attorney provided the Department of Justice decides not to seek forfeiture of the fees the drug lord would need to pay him for legal services. The DOJ decision is pending.
The 59-year-old Guzman, famous for twice escaping from prison in Mexico, is set to go on trial in New York in April 2018. He has been held in solitary confinement at a lower Manhattan lockup since his January extradition.
Guzman has pleaded not guilty.
He has remained in a 20-by-12-foot (6-by-3.7-meter) cell for 23 hours a day in a wing of the Metropolitan Correctional Center that often is used to house high-risk inmates including terrorists.
The U.S. government has said severe restrictions are necessary for Guzman in part because he used coded messages, bribes and other means to continue operating his drug empire from behind bars and arrange escapes.
Lichtman has practiced criminal law for nearly three decades, primarily in the federal and state courts of New York. Many of his cases and clients are internationally known. He defended John A. Gotti in a case that saw three murder conspiracy charges dismissed, an acquittal on a $25 million securities fraud charge and a deadlocked jury on every remaining count he faced. His other clients have included Thomas Rachko, a retired NYPD detective accused of robbing drug dealers, and Jacob Orgad, described by the government as the "largest MDMA trafficker" ever arrested in the United States.