New York — After nearly three months of testimony and six days of deliberation about a vast drug-smuggling conspiracy steeped in violence, a jury has convicted infamous Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman in his criminal conspiracy and drug trafficking trial.
Guzman was convicted on all counts.
The jury heard extensive testimony about Guzman’s rise to power as the head of the Sinaloa cartel in the high-profile trial before reaching the verdict Tuesday. Prosecutors said he’s responsible for smuggling at least 200 tons of cocaine into the United States and a wave of killings in turf wars with other cartels. The 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 mistress through a tunnel.
Guzman was in the New York courtroom as the verdict was read, reports CBS News’ Jericka Duncan.
Before jury deliberations began Feb. 4, the judge instructed jurors to review the 10 criminal counts against Guzman. Jurors had been going through an extensive verdict form that asks them to make 53 decisions about whether prosecutors have proven various elements of the 10-count indictment.
Many were related to the top count, accusing him of running a continuing criminal enterprise. He faces life in prison.
Count One/ Engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise
Count Two/ International Cocaine, Heroin, Methamphetamine and Marijuana Manufacture and Distribution Conspiracy
Count Three/Cocaine Importation Conspiracy
Count Four/Cocaine Distribution Conspiracy
Count Five/ International Distribution of Cocaine
Count Six/ International Distribution of Cocaine
Count Seven/ International Distribution of Cocaine
Count Eight/ International Distribution of Cocaine
Count Nine/ Use of Firearms
Count Ten/ Conspiracy to Launder Narcotics Proceeds
Guzman, 61, is notorious for escaping prison twice in Mexico. In closing arguments, prosecutor Andrea Goldbarg said he was plotting yet another prison break when was he was sent in 2017 to the U.S., where he’s been held in solitary confinement ever since.
The defendant wanted to escape “because he is guilty and he never wanted to be in a position where he would have to answer for his crimes,” Goldbarg said. “He wanted to avoid sitting right there. In front of you.”
Goldbarg cited an “avalanche” of evidence gathered since the late 1980s that Guzman and his murderous Sinaloa drug cartel made billions in profits by smuggling tons of cocaine, heroin, meth and marijuana into the U.S.
Evidence showed drugs poured into the U.S. through secret tunnels or hidden in tanker trucks, concealed in the undercarriage of passenger cars and packed in rail cars passing through legitimate points of entry.
The prosecution’s case against Guzman, a roughly 5½-foot figure whose nickname translates to “Shorty,” included the testimony of several turncoats and other witnesses. Among them were Guzman’s former Sinaloa lieutenants, a computer encryption expert and a Colombian cocaine supplier who underwent extreme plastic surgery to disguise his appearance.
One Sinaloa insider described Mexican workers getting contact highs while packing cocaine into thousands of jalapeno cans – shipments that totaled 25 to 30 tons of cocaine worth $500 million each year. Another testified how Guzman sometimes acted as his own sicario, or hitman, punishing a Sinaloan who dared to work for another cartel by kidnapping him, beating and shooting him and having his men bury the victim while he was still alive, gasping for air.
Goldbarg urged jurors to use “common sense” and find Guzman guilty.
“He’s responsible for any acts committed by the cartel,” Goldbarg said. “It was his orders, his actions.”
Guzman’s attorneys said their client denies the allegations.
The defense claimed Guzman’s role has been exaggerated by cooperating witnesses who are seeking leniency in their own cases. In his closing, defense attorney Jeffrey Lichtman assailed the case as a “fantasy” and urged the jury not to believe cooperators who “lie, steal, cheat, deal drugs and kill people” for a living.
The defense told the jury they “don’t need to give in to the myth of El Chapo.”
While the trial was dominated by Guzman’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 Guzman himself, except when he told the judge he wouldn’t testify.
Last month, newly unsealed court papers revealed disturbing allegations not heard by the jury — that Guzman had sex with girls as young as 13. A Colombian drug trafficker told investigators the kingpin paid $5,000 to have the girls brought to him and sometimes drugged and raped them. “These allegations are so reprehensible,” said CBS News legal analyst Rikki Klieman, but evidence about them was not included in the trial.
The start of the proceedings last week was briefly delayed after two jurors indicted to the judge they were aware of reports about the alleged sex crimes. He questioned both behind closed doors before allowing them to remain on the jury.
The unsealing of the documents came at the request of The New York Times and Vice News. U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan had ordered prosecutors to review the material — originally sealed because it was deemed unrelated to the drug charges — and make portions of it public within four days of the government resting its case against Guzman.