BROOKLYN, N.Y. (CN) – Citing legitimate concerns that an escape attempt could follow, a federal judge refused Thursday to let Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman hug his wife before the start of his drug-trafficking trial.
Before Guzman’s extradition to New York City over a year ago, the alleged Sinaloa cartel leader escaped twice from high-security Mexican prisons. Since then he’s been under some of the tightest security restrictions the U.S. can dole out, awaiting trial in solitary confinement inside the notorious 10 South wing of the Metropolitan Correctional Center.
The kingpin has not been allowed to have any contact, either by phone or in person, with his wife, former beauty queen Emma Coronel Aispuro. He spends most court appearances gazing at her in the gallery.
As the parties worked this week to select a jury for Guzman’s trial, slated to begin Nov. 13, defense attorney Mariel Colon Miro asked U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan in a letter Tuesday for some slack.
“I respectfully write to request that Mr. Guzmán be allowed to give his wife, Emma Coronel Aispuro, a brief momentary greeting to include perhaps an embrace on Tuesday, November 13th right before the beginning of the opening statements,” Miro wrote. “It can be a brief embrace in open court with the courtroom railing between them. This entire process should not take more than a few seconds.”
Cogan shot her down this morning.
“The court is sympathetic to the request,” the 2-page order states. “As defense counsel points out, defendant’s conduct during what are surely difficult proceedings and conditions of confinement for him has been exemplary, and he has displayed considerable grace under pressure.
“Nevertheless, having conferred extensively with the U.S. Marshals Service about defendant’s request, the court is constrained to deny it,” Cogan continued. “The Marshals have stressed that acceding to the request would be contrary to all the security procedures that have been put in place.”
Cogan went on to say that the restrictions placed on Guzman to prevent his escape remained crucial, particularly “on the eve of trial.”
In her letter, Miro argued that such an embrace would not pose a security threat or “facilitate any criminal activity,” and that Guzman’s health and sanity were failing as a result of the harsh nature of his incarceration. He has had no human contact for nearly two years, Miro wrote, except for handshakes with his attorneys and with the guards who shackle and unshackle him.
Miro did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday. Opening arguments begin Tuesday.