Drug lord 'El Chapo' gets life in prison, accuses U.S. of 'mental torture'

By Nicholas Sakelaris
Mexican drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman was sentenced to life in prison Wednesday in New York. File Photo courtesy of Mexico Attorney General's Office
Mexican drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman was sentenced to life in prison Wednesday in New York. File Photo courtesy of Mexico Attorney General's Office

July 17 (UPI) -- Mexican drug cartel leader Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman will spend the rest of his life in jail, a New York judge ordered Wednesday, ending a three-year U.S. case against him.

Guzman will go to a Supermax prison in Florence, Colo. where no one has ever escaped. "It's impossible. It's not even an issue," Guzman's lawyer Jeffrey Lichtman said.


The drug kingpin, who had escaped twice from Mexican prisons, spoke for the first time in court during the sentencing hearing.

"Since the government will send me to a jail where my name will not ever be heard again, I take this opportunity to say: There was no justice here," Guzman said through a translator. "You denied me a fair trial while the whole world was watching ... What happened here is very clear, that the United States is as corrupt as any country."


He thanked those who supported him throughout the arrest, extradition and prosecution.

"Their prayers have given me the strength to brave this torture of the last 36 months," Guzman said. "It has been psychological, emotional and mental torture 24 hours a day."

Brooklyn U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan sentenced Guzman to life in prison plus 30 years. The hearing was held amid tight security that included bomb-sniffing dogs and agents with automatic weapons. The line for observers to attend the sentencing began forming Tuesday night.

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Prosecutors asked Cogan for a life sentence, arguing the 62-year-old Sinaloa cartel leader is a "ruthless and bloodthirsty" drug lord.

"The horrific nature and circumstances of the defendant's offense, his history and characteristics and the fact that the defendant committed some of the most serious crimes under federal law make a life sentence warranted," prosecutors wrote in a filing.

Guzman was convicted in February of conspiracy to commit murder, drug trafficking and money laundering.

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The death penalty is not an option because of the deal the U.S. government made with Mexico to have Guzman extradited. Defense attorneys did not file a memorandum for Wednesday's sentencing.

"When there's a guaranteed no chance of anything but life, there was no point in a sentencing memo," Lichtman told ABC news. "It's mandatory, and there's no discretion with the judge."


Defense attorneys can instead appeal the conviction based on the account of an anonymous juror who said at least five members of the pool had seen media coverage of the trial -- a disclosure Lichtman said made him "livid."

Attorney Mariel Colon visited Guzman in prison after his arrest and she's confident that he will get an appeal. If he doesn't, "then this will be the last time the public will see El Chapo," Colon told CNN.

"It could be potentially also the last time El Chapo could see his wife."

Guzman was arrested in 2016 after a six-month manhunt following his escape from a Mexican jail through a mile-long tunnel that had been dug beneath the shower in his cell. (He had escaped incarceration in 2001 by hiding in a laundry bin.)

New York trial testimony said Guzman continually evolved his drug-smuggling techniques, beginning at the time he started trafficking during the 1980s. The trial lasted three months and included several former cartel members who testified against Guzman. He was ultimately convicted on all 10 counts he faced.

"He was a killer. He was a murderer. He was a manipulator. But he was also very, very, very smart, very street smart," Drug Enforcement Administration agent Ray Donovan said. "He was willing to use extreme violence to control his territory and control his organization."


The Sinaloa Cartel remains a powerful drug trafficker with major hubs in Phoenix, Los Angeles, Denver and Chicago.

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