Crime

Judge Denies Easing Prison Security For 'El Chapo'

| by Kathryn Schroeder

A New York federal judge denied a request for lessoning the strict security measures against Mexican drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman in prison.

Guzman was extradited to the U.S. in January 2016 to stand trial for alleged drug crimes, ABC News reports. He is being held in a high-security correctional facility in lower Manhattan, where he is on 23-hour lockdown and only permitted to leave his cell for one hour of exercise per day and to speak with "limited members" of his defense team.

Michelle Gelernt, a defense attorney for Guzman, who escaped from prison in Mexico twice, asked for the "extremely restrictive" security measures to be relaxed so he could visit with his wife, former teen beauty queen Emma Coronel, and make phone calls to his attorneys.

Gelernt cited Guzman's good behavior while in prison in the U.S. as why the request should be granted.

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"We believe that in light of the fact that he has caused no security problems since he's come to this country, he's conducted himself the way he should in court and with the agents who arrested him, that the current restrictions are excessive," she said.

Judge Brian Cogan denied the request, stating: "They're taking extra security measures. I think we all know the reasons for that."

The judge did not specifically mention Guzman's prior prison escapes.

Guzman's most recent escape from a Mexican prison occurred in 2015. He was recaptured in January 2016 and sent to a prison in Mexico, where high-security precautions were taken, such as moving him seven times during his first five nights, The Telegraph reports.

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There were dogs trained to recognize Guzman's scent patrolling the corridors and buildings, every security camera had been checked and all blind spots removed. The number of cameras in the prison reportedly increased to 1,000. The prison also reinstalled and updated motion sensors, and reinforced the floors with three layers of steel, three-quarters of an inch thick.

A 17-count indictment was filed against Guzman for crimes he allegedly committed between 1989 and 2014 as the leader of the Sinaloa drug cartel, ABC News reports.

"[Guzman ran a] criminal enterprise responsible for importing into the United States and distributing massive amounts of illegal narcotics and for conspiring to murder people who posed a threat to the narcotics enterprise," a Department of Justice statement reads.

The U.S. government is demanding that Guzman surrender $14 billion "in drug proceeds and illicit profits." The profits were allegedly smuggled into Mexico from the U.S.

"Guzman faces a sentence of mandatory life imprisonment, if convicted of the continuing criminal enterprise charge, and a maximum sentence of life on the remaining charges," the DOJ said.

Guzman has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Sources: ABC News, The Telegraph / Photo credit: Carlos Loret de Mola/Twitter via The Telegraph

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