WASHINGTON (CN) — Attorneys for the daughter of one of Mexico’s most wanted cartel leaders requested Thursday that she be released from detention before her trial, arguing the Covid-19 outbreak makes continued incarceration a “grave public health threat.”
Defense counsel for Jessica Oseguera González, known as “La Negra,” said in a motion for reconsideration of the court’s detention order that the more people in detention facilities, the greater the likelihood of an unchecked outbreak of the novel coronavirus.
“Such an outbreak will impact inmates, correctional officers, and the communities of which those inmates and officers are a part,” defense attorney Steven McCool argued. “Releasing Ms. Gonzalez will safeguard her health, and will also help reduce the threat of Covid-19 spreading like wildfire through our detention centers.”
González, 33, was arrested at the security checkpoint in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia last month while attempting to visit her brother, who was recently extradited and pleaded not guilty to drug charges carrying a maximum life sentence.
Both defendants are California-born dual citizens of the U.S. and Mexico. U.S. authorities have a $10 million award out on their father, Nemesio “El Mencho” Oseguera Cervantes, who heads the Jalisco New Generation Cartel.
González was set to stand trial after pleading not guilty to charges related to property dealings with five business entities designated by U.S. officials as narcotic traffickers. It remains unclear when the trial will be held with proceedings slowed to a near standstill for the next month at the Washington, D.C., federal court.
After prosecutors argued that González was a high flight risk, a federal judge overturned an original ruling by a magistrate judge and ordered she be detained over two week ago.
But González’s attorneys now claim that awaiting a jury trial in a federal facility poses serious risk because the self-quarantine measures that Americans across the country have widely adopted are logistically impossible.
Warning there is every reason to expect that Covid-19 will spread rapidly in confinement, as with other infectious diseases like tuberculosis and influenza, the defense attorney argued circumstances in the U.S. have “radically changed” since his client was first detained on March 3.
“Since that date, Covid-19 has emerged as a global pandemic and national health emergency. Covid-19 poses an immediate and absolute danger to Ms. Gonzalez and to the community,” McCool wrote. “Detention facilities, such as the facility in which Ms. Gonzalez is currently incarcerated, pose an even more substantial danger, given the sheer number of inmates sharing close quarters, without the ability to stay away from one another and stop the spread of the virus.”
As of Thursday afternoon, the greater Washington region’s total number of novel coronavirus cases had risen to 242, with eight new cases confirmed Wednesday evening.
A U.S. marshal stationed at the District of Columbia Superior Court tested positive for Covid-19 on Wednesday, slowing the court to a near shut down by continuing only proceedings “deemed absolutely essential.” Last week, a corrections officer at George W. Hill Correctional Facility in Pennsylvania was confirmed to be carrying the virus, leading to a quarantine of 11 inmates.
The defense attorney warned that these are early signs of what will be a continued spread across federal detention centers.
“It is not a question of if, therefore, but when Covid-19 will spread to the detention center where Ms. Gonzalez is currently housed,” McCool wrote, reminding the court that his client has no criminal history and was charged with a nonviolent crime.