Mexican drug kingpin Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán has been sentenced to life behind bars in a US prison, a humbling end for a crime lord once notorious for his ability to kill, bribe or tunnel his way out of trouble.
A federal judge in Brooklyn handed down the sentence on Wednesday, five months after Guzmán’s conviction in an epic drug-trafficking case.
The 62-year-old, who had been protected in Mexico by an army of gangsters and an elaborate corruption operation, was taken to the US to stand trial after he twice escaped from Mexican prisons.
Before he was sentenced, Guzmán complained about the conditions of his confinement and told the judge he was denied a fair trial. He said District Judge Brian Cogan failed to thoroughly investigate claims of juror misconduct.
The sentence was pre-ordained. The guilty verdict in February at Guzmán’s 11-week trial triggered a mandatory sentence of life without parole .
The evidence showed that under Guzmán’s orders, the Sinaloa cartel was responsible for smuggling mountains of cocaine and other drugs into the US during his 25-year reign, prosecutors said in court papers recapping the trial.
They also said his “army of sicarios” was under orders to kidnap, torture and murder anyone who got in his way.
The defence argued he was framed by other traffickers who became government witnesses so they could get breaks in their own cases.
Guzmán has been largely cut off from the outside world since his extradition in 2017 and his remarks in the courtroom on Wednesday could be the last time the public hears from him.
Wary of his history of escaping from Mexican prisons, US authorities have kept him in solitary confinement in an ultra-secure unit at a Manhattan jail and under close guard during his appearances at the Brooklyn courthouse where his case unfolded.
Experts say he is likely to end up at the federal government’s “Supermax” prison in Florence, Colorado, known as the “Alcatraz of the Rockies”.
While the trial was dominated by Guzmán’s persona as a near-mythical outlaw who carried a diamond-encrusted handgun and stayed one step ahead of the law, the jury never heard from the man himself, except when he told the judge he would not give evidence.
But evidence at the trial suggested his decision to stay quiet at the defence table was against his nature. Co-operating witnesses told jurors he was a fan of his own rags-to-riches narco story, always eager to find an author or screenwriter to tell it.
He famously gave an interview to American actor Sean Penn while he was a fugitive, hiding in the mountains after accomplices built a long tunnel to help him escape from a Mexican prison.
There were also reports that Guzmán was itching to testify in his own defence until his lawyers talked him out of it, making his sentencing a last chance to seize the spotlight.
At the trial, his lawyers argued he was the fall guy for other kingpins who were better at paying off senior Mexican politicians and law enforcement officials to protect them while the US government looked the other way.
Prosecution descriptions of an empire that paid for private planes, beachfront villas and a private zoo were a fallacy, his lawyers said, and the chances the US government could collect on a roughly 12.5 billion dollar (£10 billion) forfeiture order are zero, they add.
We need your help to keep speaking the truth
Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.
Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.
We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.
In return, you get:
* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop
Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.
With your help we can continue:
* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do
We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?