BROOKLYN, N.Y. (CN) - Unless he makes another miraculous escape, the notoriously slippery Mexican drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman will spend the rest of his life behind bars.
Guzman, 62, is not happy about it.
The drug lord, convicted in February of murder conspiracy and other charges related to his role at the head of the Sinaloa cartel, addressed the packed courtroom for about 15 minutes at his sentencing hearing Wednesday morning. Through a translator, Guzman spent most of that time criticizing his conditions of confinement and the juror misconduct that he claims prejudiced the case.
“When I was extradited to the United States I expected to have a fair trial,” Guzman said, “where justice would be blind” to his reputation, “but it was actually the opposite.”
Guzman’s lawyers had asked for a new trial back in March after Vice News published an anonymous account of the trial from inside the jury box. Though jurors are supposed to avoid media coverage during the trial, the article said these commands were flouted by multiple jurors.
U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan nevertheless denied Guzman’s motion earlier this month and refused to grant an evidentiary hearing, emphasizing that the evidence against Guzman was so overwhelming that even substantiation of the report would not make a difference.
Overwhelming puts it mildly. Over the course of a three-month trial this winter, prosecutors meticulously laid out serious crimes spanning multiple decades. More than a dozen cooperators testified, over 50 witnesses in all.
Defense attorney Jeffrey Lichtman nevertheless painted his client’s trial as unfair this morning in his remarks to the court.
“In the end, how we treat our most reviled in society is a measuring stick of our own society,” Lichtman said. “History will treat this verdict with skepticism.”
Before Cogan imposed a sentence of life in prison plus 30 years, Guzman echoed these criticisms in his statement.
“The U.S. is not any better than any other corrupt country,” Guzman said.
Cogan rested one cheek on his hand, watching passively as Guzman criticized the proceedings as a show trial.
“My case was stained, and you denied me a fair trial where the whole world was watching.”
Since his extradition 2 1/2 years ago from Mexico, Guzman has spent the bulk of this period in solitary confinement at the notorious “10 South” wing of the Metropolitan Correctional Center in lower Manhattan. It’s likely he will spend the rest of his days at ADX Florence, a super-maximum-security prison in the Colorado desert.
Guzman condemned these conditions in his statement to the court today.
"With all due respect, it's been torture," Guzman said. "It's the most inhuman situation I've lived in in my life. It's been [a] lack of respect for human dignity."