Jurors at the U.S. trial of Mexican drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman have found him guilty on multiple counts.
A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York confirmed the jury had reached a verdict Tuesday, without immediately providing details.
The trial testimony lasted nearly three months and the jurors have been tasked with deciding on 10 separate counts.
Guzman has pleaded not guilty to charges that his Sinaloa cartel smuggled tons of drugs, laundered billions of dollars and oversaw a ruthless murder and kidnapping conspiracy. The defense insisted the allegations were fabricated.
Throughout the trial, which kicked off in November, prosecutors used documents, videos and recordings as evidence, including material related to drug smugglers’ safe houses and Guzman’s 2015 prison escape and the law enforcement operation to recapture him.
During closing arguments, prosecutors said the evidence against Guzman was overwhelming, while a defense attorney assailed the federal case against the Mexican drug lord as “a fantasy,” telling the jury that the prosecution relied on a parade of cooperating witnesses who “lie, steal, cheat, deal drugs and kill people” for a living.
The gripping trial that was reminiscent of a hard-to-believe Hollywood movie, supplied many memorable moments. The highlights of the government case offered plenty of potential material, starting early in the trial with testimony by a former Sinaloa cartel lieutenant describing how a car carrying Guzman into Mexico City shortly after he escaped prison in 2001 got a police escort by highway officers. A suspected informant claimed he had survived several attempts on his life ordered by Guzman, including a knife attack at a jail right after he heard a brass band ominously playing a favorite “corrido” folk song of Guzman’s — “Un Puno De Tierra” — over and over.
A former Colombian kingpin who once supplied the cartel with tons of cocaine, Juan Carlos Ramirez Abadia, made an impact solely by the way he looked while testifying — with his face distorted by an extreme makeover meant to hide his identity. Ramirez explained that he had undergone at least three plastic surgeries that altered “my jawbone, my cheekbones, my eyes, my mouth, my ears, my nose.”
Much of the testimony was devoted to how corrupt Mexican authorities had a voracious appetite for drug money. One cooperator said Guzman had paid former President Enrique Pena Nieto $100 million — a claim Pena Nieto denied.
Three of the latest witnesses kept the drama alive: A former cartel computer tech who testified how, after being flipped by the FBI, he showed them how to intercept the syndicate’s phone calls and texts that Guzman had monitored with spyware; a member of the cartel security team who alleged Guzman shot a kidnapped victim before having the man buried alive; and an ex-girlfriend who described how they evaded a manhunt — one of his specialties — using a trapdoor underneath a safehouse bathroom that led to a drainage tunnel that he used to run away, naked, in 2014.
The trial became such a pop culture phenomenon that Alejandro Edda, the actor who played Guzman on the Netflix series “Narcos: Mexico” made a cameo at the trial. Another attention-grabbing moment was the day Guzman’s twin girls attended the trial and saw their father for the first time since his arrest.
Guzman told a judge Jan. 29 he would not take the witness stand in his own defense at his U.S. drug-trafficking trial.
Guzman was captured in 2015 and escaped jail through a tunnel dug into his prison cell before he was sent in 2017 to the U.S. He’s been in solitary confinement ever since and could face life in prison if convicted.