American jury on Tuesday found Mexican kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman guilty on all counts.
The panel spent more than five days mulling the drug lord’s fate before convicting him on charges of operating a continuing criminal enterprise, use of firearms and various charges of conspiracy to import and distribute cocaine, heroin and marijuana.
Guzman, who twice escaped prison in Mexico, now faces up to life behind bars.
The decision follows an 11-week trial with testimony from more than 50 prosecution witnesses — including 14 former associates of Guzman’s who took the stand against him — and a 30-minute, single-witness defense case.
The historic trial often unfolded more like a telenovela than a prosecution — chronicling the 61-year-old’s rise to leader of the infamous Sinaloa Cartel over the course of three decades, as witnesses detailed his pivot from a lavish lifestyle in the 1990s to hiding out in the mountains on the run from authorities the following decade.
Testimony from those closest to Guzman ranged from comical to chilling, including a naked escape from law enforcement through a tunnel network he’d built under his bathtub — and the cold-blooded murders he himself committed.
The accounts painted Guzman as a ruthless and calculating drug lord, who was paranoid to the point of obsession, going so far as to install spyware on the devices used by his associates, wife and mistresses.
Thanks to the kingpin’s snooping, the FBI managed to score access to not only those communications but also Guzman’s own encrypted servers after agents flipped his IT guy.
That access, in addition to other intercepts and a trove of belongings the kingpin abandoned at an oceanside mansion during a raid, were critical in his conviction.
The trial also served as a primer on the bloody turf wars across Mexico, as rival cartels battled for unencumbered access to the United States — and its appetite for cocaine.
Prosecutors detailed in opening statements how Guzman’s organization had trafficked in more than 328 million lines of cocaine — enough to provide more than a line for every person in the US.
Over the course of the trial, jurors were shown stockpiles of seized kilos, in addition to AK-47 rifles, grenades, rocket-propelled grenades and other weapons discovered during various raids.
The panel also heard of rampant corruption across the country, ranging from bribes paid to low-level law enforcement to allegations of multimillion-dollar payments that implicated the current Mexican president and his predecessors.
Guzman’s defense spent the case attempting to undermine the integrity of the cooperating witnesses who took the stand against Guzman.
His lawyers repeatedly characterized him as a scapegoat who’d been persecuted, while his at-large partner, Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada, was allowed to run free.
Source: New York Times