Mexican drug cartel leader El Chapo found guilty, faces life in prison

Erika Holt
February 13, 2019

After three months of testimony, jurors have reached a guilty verdict on all 10 counts.

Mexico's most notorious drug lord, Joaquin (El Chapo) Guzman, was convicted Tuesday of running an industrial-scale smuggling operation after a three-month trial packed with Hollywood-style tales of grisly killings, political payoffs, cocaine hidden in jalapeno cans, jewel-encrusted guns and a naked escape with his girlfriend through a tunnel.

The trial testimony lasted almost three months and the jurors have were tasked with deciding on 10 separate counts.

Biting his lip, his eyes red as he appeared to continually fight back tears, the small-fry cartel killer - who was convicted in Brooklyn court Tuesday and now faces life in prison - was a far cry from the picture painted of him by USA authorities as the ruthless head of the world's largest illicit-drug network.

After being escorted off the plane at MacArthur Airport on Long Island in shackles, Guzman, 61, then sat in a chair in a hangar surrounded by U.S. federal agents looking stunned and scared for his life - and appeared to wipe a tear from his eyes. Once the jury left the room, he and his wife put their hands to their hearts and gave each other the thumbs up sign. The 66-year-old's wife, Emma Coronel Aispuro, was among those in the courtroom on Tuesday to see his fate sealed.

Jurors convicted Guzman on all 10 counts in an global drug distribution trial that lasted more than three months.

The most detailed evidence against Guzman came from more than a dozen former associates who struck deals to cooperate with US prosecutors.

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Jurors at the USA trial of Mexican drug kingpin Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman are in their sixth day of deliberations.

Guzman's lawyers did not deny the defendant's charges but argued that he was the victim of government witnesses who were worse than he was.

Through them, jurors heard how the Sinaloa Cartel gained power amid the shifting allegiances of the Mexican drug trade in the 1990s, eventually coming to control nearly the entire Pacific coast of Mexico.

Guzman made a name for himself in the 1980s as "El Rapido", the speedy one, by building cross-border tunnels that allowed him to move cocaine from Mexico into the United States faster than anyone else.

Guzmán, once listed on Forbes' Billionaires List, has always been a slippery and near-mythical figure. Colombian trafficker Alex Cifuentes caused a stir by testifying that former Mexican president Enrique Pena Nieto took a $100-million bribe from Guzman.

The legend of Guzman was burnished by two dramatic escapes he made from Mexican prisons and by a "Robin Hood" image he cultivated among Sinaloa's poor.

Despite his ties to government officials, Guzman often lived on the run. Cogan says it made him "very proud to be an American". He was finally recaptured in January 2016 following a shootout in Sinaloa.

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