BROOKLYN, N.Y. (CN) — Refusing to dismiss the indictment of drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman on the basis of his extradition, a federal judge ruled Friday that Mexico alone could raise such a challenge.
Charged with running a multibillion drug empire, Guzman has been awaiting trial at New York’s Metropolitan Detention Center since Jan. 19 — the day of his dramatic extradition from Mexico, where he escaped twice from high-security prisons.
In a long-shot bid to dismiss the case, defense attorney Michelle Gelernt argued in an August legal brief that the consent agreement between the United States and Mexico that led to Guzman’s transfer was legally defective.
U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan nixed the objection today as legally barred.
“It is well-settled law in the Second Circuit that ‘absent protest or objection by the offended sovereign, [a defendant] has no standing to raise the violation of international law’ to challenge his indictment,” Cogan wrote, posting the brief order late Friday to El Chapo’s docket.
Although Guzman is being prosecuted in the Eastern District of New York, Guzman’s extradition papers refer to his indictments in Texas and California. Those indictments charged him with murder, conspiracy, money laundering, drug and firearms trafficking, and other criminal enterprise violations.
His pending 17-count indictment in the Eastern District of New York includes similar charges and accuses him of running a narcotics empire with the Sinaloa cartel on four continents, using a fleet of boats, planes and submarines.
Unlike the other indictments, New York federal prosecutors seek $14 billion in forfeiture.
Gelernt had attacked her client’s extradition based on a principle called the rule of specialty, mandating that a criminal defendant is tried only on charges detailed in the extradition.
Judge Cogan concluded Friday, however, that Guzman’s invocation of the rule-of-specialty argument suffered from bad timing.
“In fact, one week before defendant filed his motion, the Second Circuit affirmed this legal principle in United States v. Barinas, … holding that absent an express provision in an extradition treaty, a defendant has no standing to raise a rule of specialty violation,” he wrote.
“Here, there is no protest or objection by Mexico, nor is there an express provision in the extradition treaty between the United States and Mexico,” he added.
Acknowledging the long odds, Galernt said her team was "disappointed, but not surprised, by the court's ruling."
"We expected to be denied standing because the judge was bound by the law in this Circuit. We still believe Mr. Guzman's rights under the treaty were violated, and given that other Circuit Courts give the defendant the right to object to violations of extradition treaties, hope that the Supreme Court will decide this issue favorably to Mr. Guzman in the future."
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