El Chapo seeking new lawyers in US drug trafficking case 

Mexican drug lord and escape artist Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman wants to hire new lawyers in his U.S. drug trafficking case, but there's questions about how they'll get paid.

Published: 14th August 2017 10:28 AM  |   Last Updated: 14th August 2017 10:28 AM   |  A+A-

FILE - In this Jan. 19, 2017, file photo provided U.S. law enforcement, authorities escort Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman, center, from a plane to a waiting caravan of SUVs at Long Island MacArthur Airport, in Ronkonkoma, N.Y. | AP

By Associated Press

NEW YORK: Mexican drug lord and escape artist Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman wants to hire new lawyers in his U.S. drug trafficking case, but there's questions about how they'll get paid.

Guzman is set to appear Monday in federal court in Brooklyn where a judge is expected to address questions about whether he can replace his public defense lawyers with private ones.

His current legal team has asked for assurances from prosecutors that if he hires the private lawyers, the government won't later seek forfeiture of any legal fees based on arguments the money came from his estimated $14 billion in drug profits.

Prosecutors have argued that taxpayers shouldn't have to pay for his defense. But they also said in a letter to the court last week that the government will not "grant a blanket prospective assurance" that it won't go after money spent on a private defense.

One of the private lawyers seeking to represent Guzman successfully defended John "Junior" Gotti, son of the notorious organized crime family boss, at a 2005 trial. The younger Gotti walked free after an acquittal on a securities fraud count and a mistrial on more serious racketeering counts.

In phone interviews with The Associated Press last week, the lawyer, Jeffrey Lichtman, said he's more concerned about getting the court to sign off on the change of lawyers than about legal fees.

"I'm going into the case regardless," Lichtman said.

As for his impressions of Guzman, "He is charming, funny, highly intelligent. I enjoyed getting to know him. ... I don't judge someone by what I read in the papers."

Mexico extradicted Guzman in January to the U.S., where he pleaded not guilty to charges that his drug trafficking operation, the Sinaloa cartel, laundered billions of dollars and oversaw a ruthless campaign of murders and kidnappings.

The defense has claimed that he's being held in inhumane and overly restrictive conditions at a high-security jail in Manhattan known for housing alleged mobsters and terrorists.

The government has argued that his strict jail conditions are appropriate for someone who escaped from prison twice in Mexico, including once through a mile-long (1.6-kilometer-long) 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 control his Sinaloa cartel and orchestrate his breakouts.

Stay up to date on all the latest World news with The New Indian Express App. Download now

Comments

Disclaimer : We respect your thoughts and views! But we need to be judicious while moderating your comments. All the comments will be moderated by the newindianexpress.com editorial. Abstain from posting comments that are obscene, defamatory or inflammatory, and do not indulge in personal attacks. Try to avoid outside hyperlinks inside the comment. Help us delete comments that do not follow these guidelines.

The views expressed in comments published on newindianexpress.com are those of the comment writers alone. They do not represent the views or opinions of newindianexpress.com or its staff, nor do they represent the views or opinions of The New Indian Express Group, or any entity of, or affiliated with, The New Indian Express Group. newindianexpress.com reserves the right to take any or all comments down at any time.