What to Know
- The jury has reached a verdict in the case of alleged Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman
- Guzman pleaded not guilty to charges that his Sinaloa cartel smuggled drugs, laundered billions of dollars and oversaw murder campaign
- Throughout the trial, which kicked off in November, prosecutors used documents, videos and recordings as evidence
The notorious Mexican drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman has been found guilty on all counts in an international drug distribution trial in New York.
Jurors convicted Guzman on all 10 counts that are likely to put him behind bars for the rest of his life. He is set to be sentenced on June 25.
"His conviction is a victory for the American people who have suffered so long and so much while Guzman made billions pouring poison over our southern border," said U.S. Attorney Richard P. Donoghue during a news conference outside a federal court in Brooklyn.
New York jurors whose identities were kept secret reached a verdict after deliberating six days in the expansive case, sorting through what authorities called an "avalanche" of evidence gathered since the late 1980s that Guzman and his murderous Sinaloa drug cartel made billions in profits by smuggling tons of cocaine, heroin, meth and marijuana into the U.S.
As the judge read the verdict Tuesday, Guzman stared at the jury straight-faced. When the jury was discharged, he leaned back in his chair to catch the eye of his wife, who gave him a subtle thumbs-up.
U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan lauded the jury's meticulous attention to detail and the "remarkable" approach it took toward deliberations. Cogan said it made him "very proud to be an American."
Throughout the trial, which kicked off in November, prosecutors used documents, videos and recordings as evidence, including material related to drug smugglers' safe houses and Guzman's 2015 prison escape and the law enforcement operation to recapture him.
During closing arguments, prosecutors said the evidence against Guzman was overwhelming.
Defense attorney Jeffrey Lichtman, meanwhile, had urged not to believe government witnesses who "lie, steal, cheat, deal drugs and kill people."
On Tuesday, Lichtman called the conviction "devastating," but he said he was proud that the defense "left it all on the battlefield."
The gripping trial that was reminiscent of a hard-to-believe Hollywood movie, supplied many memorable moments.
The highlights of the government case offered plenty of potential material, starting early in the trial with testimony by a former Sinaloa cartel lieutenant describing how a car carrying Guzman into Mexico City shortly after he escaped prison in 2001 got a police escort by highway officers.
A suspected informant claimed he had survived several attempts on his life ordered by Guzman, including a knife attack at a jail right after he heard a brass band ominously playing a favorite "corrido" folk song of Guzman's — "Un Puno De Tierra" — over and over.
A former Colombian kingpin who once supplied the cartel with tons of cocaine, Juan Carlos Ramirez Abadia, made an impact solely by the way he looked while testifying — with his face distorted by an extreme makeover meant to hide his identity.
Ramirez explained that he had undergone at least three plastic surgeries that altered "my jawbone, my cheekbones, my eyes, my mouth, my ears, my nose."
Much of the testimony was devoted to how corrupt Mexican authorities had a voracious appetite for drug money. One cooperator said Guzman had paid former President Enrique Pena Nieto $100 million — a claim Pena Nieto denied.
Three of the latest witnesses kept the drama alive: A former cartel computer tech who testified how, after being flipped by the FBI, he showed them how to intercept the syndicate's phone calls and texts that Guzman had monitored with spyware; a member of the cartel security team who alleged Guzman shot a kidnapped victim before having the man buried alive; and an ex-girlfriend who described how they evaded a manhunt — one of his specialties — using a trapdoor underneath a safehouse bathroom that led to a drainage tunnel that he used to run away, naked, in 2014.
The trial became such a pop culture phenomenon that Alejandro Edda, the actor who played Guzman on the Netflix series “Narcos: Mexico” made a cameo at the trial. Another attention-grabbing moment was the day Guzman's twin girls attended the trial and saw their father for the first time since his arrest.
Guzman told a judge Jan. 29 he would not take the witness stand in his own defense at his U.S. drug-trafficking trial.
Guzman was captured in 2015 and escaped jail through a tunnel dug into his prison cell before he was sent in 2017 to the U.S. He's been in solitary confinement ever since.