FederalImmigration & BorderMexican Drug Lord, El Chapo, Sentenced to Life Plus 30 Years in US Prison

As the former head of the Sinaloa Cartel, El Chapo pushed over 200 tons of cocaine onto U.S. streets and will spend the remainder of his life behind bars.
July 17, 2019
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On Wednesday, Mexican Drug Lord, Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmàn, 62, was sentenced to life in US prison without the possibility of parole plus an additional 30 years after being found guilty of crimes spanning almost three decades.

As head of Mexico’s Sinaloa cartel, Guzmàn is responsible for illegally distributing more than 200 tons of cocaine to the United States. He was convicted by a New York jury in February on all 10 counts brought against him, including engaging in continuing criminal enterprise, international distribution of cocaine and other drugs, and conspiracy to launder narcotic proceeds. 

Additionally, prosecutors presented evidence of numerous counts of murder, political payoffs, and legal evasion.

A federal court filing by prosecutors said in regard to the verdict, “The horrific nature and circumstances of the defendant’s offense, his history and characteristics and the fact that the defendant committed some of the most serious crimes under federal law make a life sentence warranted.”

In accordance with federal sentencing guidelines, a life sentence was mandatory, but the Justice Department asked that an additional 30 years be added due to the illegal use of firearms in conjunction with his larger crimes. 

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Describing his case as “stained,” Guzmàn alleged that he had been denied a fair trial due to juror misconduct and that while awaiting sentencing in prison, his basic human rights had been disrespected by poor living conditions and the inability to see his wife and daughters.

Testifying for the first time during the course of his three-month trial, Guzmàn said through an interpreter, “When I was extradited to the United States, I expected to have a fair trial, but what happened was the exact opposite.”

Guzmàn, whose nickname “El Chapo” loosely translates to “Shorty,” escaped from prison in Mexico twice before being captured for a third time and extradited to the US.

His first escape from a Mexican prison occurred in 2011 after he bribed prison guards to smuggle him out in a laundry cart. After Guzmàn was recaptured by Mexican authorities in 2014, the US government requested he be extradited to the United States, but the request was denied by Mexican authorities.

In 2015, Guzmàn escaped from prison a second time by way of a mile-long tunnel underneath his Mexican prison cell before being recaptured in January 2016 and extradited to the US after long negotiations.

While in the US, Guzmàn was held in solitary confinement in a maximum-security unit at a Manhattan jail, where his attorney requested he remain for an additional 60 days before being transferred to a different facility. Although his next destination has yet to be announced, some experts speculate he will be held at the federal Supermax prison in Florence, Colorado, informally referred to as “Alcatraz of the Rockies,” where interaction with other prisoners and the outside world is extremely limited.

In addition to life in prison, Guzmàn was also ordered to pay $12.6 billion in forfeiture to the US government, which Texas Senator Ted Cruz suggested be used to fund a border wall along the Texas-Mexico border through a bill he introduced called the EL CHAPO Act.

In light of the sentencing on Wednesday, Senator Cruz is reviving his calls to use Guzmàn’s forfeiture for border security measures. In response to the verdict, he tweeted, “Now let’s make El Chapo pay for the wall.” 

It has yet to be determined how the US government plans to appropriate Guzmàn’s forfeiture.

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Sarah McConnell

Sarah McConnell

Sarah McConnell is a reporter for The Texan. Previously, she worked as a Cyber Security Consultant after serving as a Pathways Intern at the Department of Homeland Security – Citizenship and Immigration Services. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Texas A&M as well as her Master of Public Service and Administration degree from the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M. In her free time, Sarah is an avid runner, jazz enthusiast, and lover of all things culinary.