Mexican drug kingpin “El Chapo” sentenced to life in prison by federal judge

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Mexican drug kingpin Joaquín Guzmán, better known as “El Chapo,” was sentenced to life plus 30 years in prison by a federal judge in Brooklyn Wednesday. Guzmán, who was convicted in February on murder conspiracy and drug charges, was also ordered to pay $12.6 billion in money he made off his drug business. 

Guzman’s long tenure as head of the Sinaloa cartel in Mexico is filled with details only seen in Hollywood movies: gangland-style murders, massive political bribes, diamond-encrusted guns, and clandestine escapes from prison through underground tunnels. Through it all, Guzman built a billion-dollar criminal enterprise trafficking heroin, cocaine, marijuana and synthetic fentanyl into the United States. 

Guzman, 62, spoke at his sentencing on Wednesday. CBS News’ Cassandra Gauthier was in the courtroom when Guzman addressed U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan while speaking through a translator. 

Guzman called his confinement “total torture,” claiming he had been “forced to drink unsanitary water.” He said the air he breathes through a duct “makes my ears, my throat, my head hurt.”

He complained that his wife Emma Coronel has not been able to visit him. “I have not been able to hug my daughters. It has been psychological, emotional, mental torture 24 hours a day.” He called his confinement “the most inhumane situation I’ve ever been in.” 

He remarked how when he was extradited, he “expected to have a fair trial… what happened was actually the opposite.”

In February, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Richard Donoghue, said he expected a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

“It is a sentence from which there is no escape and no return,” Donoghue said. “His conviction is a victory for the American people who have suffered so long and so much while Guzman made billions pouring poison over our southern border.”

Guzman is expected to be sent to United States Penitentiary Florence, a SuperMax prison in Colorado, reports CBS News’ Cassandra Gauthier and CBS News senior investigative producer Pat Milton.

Standing outside the Federal Courthouse in Brooklyn, New York, on Wednesday, Guzman’s attorney Jeffrey Lichtman blasted the verdict. 

“History will treat this verdict with skepticism.” Lichtman said. “This case was simply an inquisition. It was a show trial. With how it ended was absolutely perfect for that description.” 

“I’m not here to tell you Joaquín Guzmán was as saint,” he said. “All we asked for was a fair trial. If you don’t give a fair trial to Joaquín Guzmán, what happens to the guy off the street who is tried for tax evasion?”

Lichtman addressed claims of juror misconduct and said “up to five jurors have broken the law” when they were judging Guzmán’s crimes. He said government witnesses got “sweetheart deals” for testifying against Guzmán, and described Judge Cogan’s opinion as a “quickly, written and canned 43 page opinion.” 

Guzman’s attorneys said they will be appealing the guilty verdict. 

U.S. attorneys who successfully prosecuted Guzmán spoke outside the federal courthouse, as well. 

“Today brings a measure of justice for the American people. It brings a measure of justice for the country of Mexico, whose institution were corrupted for decades by the Sinaloa cartel,” said Brian Bezczkowski, the Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice.  “If you pump hundreds of thousands of tons of cocaine and other drugs into our country, we will find you, we will extricate you, we will prosecute you, and we will bring you to justice.” 

“This sentence is significant and it is well deserved,” Donoghue said on Tuesday. “It means that never again will Guzmán throw poison over our borders, making billions, while innocent lives are lost to drug violence and drug addiction.”

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