While expressing no remorse, Mexican drug kingpin and escape artist Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman was sentenced Wednesday to life behind bars in a U.S. prison.
A defiant Guzman took a parting shot at a judge in federal court in Brooklyn, accusing him of making a mockery of the U.S. justice system in refusing to order a new trial based on allegations of juror misconduct.
“My case was stained and you denied me a fair trial when the whole world was watching,” Guzman said through an interpreter.
The 62-year-old defendant -- he was sport his trademark mustache after being clean-shaven during his trial -- also used what could be his last chance to speak in public by complaining about being kept in solitary confinement since he was brought to the U.S. to stand trial. That move was made after he'd twice broken out of Mexican prisons.
“Since the government will send me to a jail where my name will not ever be heard again, I take this opportunity to say there was no justice here,” he said.
Experts say he will likely wind up at the federal government’s supermax [super-maximum security] prison in Florence, Colo., where inmates are held alone for 23 hours a day.
Before handing down the sentence in connection with a massive drug conspiracy that had resulted in more than two decades of murder and mayhem, U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan said Guzman’s complaints were minor given the “mountain range of evidence” against him.
The term -- life plus 30 years -- was largely a foregone conclusion. The guilty verdict on drug-trafficking charges in February triggered a mandatory sentence of life without parole. Cogan also ordered Guzman to repay $12.6 billion, money his drug-trafficking organization made distributing cocaine and other drugs throughout the U.S.
The evidence at an 11-week trial showed that Guzman’s Sinaloa cartel was responsible for smuggling mountains of cocaine and other drugs into the United States during his 25-year reign, prosecutors said in recent court papers. They said his “army of sicarios” was under orders to kidnap, torture and murder anyone who got in the way.
The defense argued that Guzman had been framed by other traffickers who'd become government witnesses so they could get breaks in their own cases. They also insisted his trial had been tainted by jurors improperly viewing media coverage of the case.
As he stood to be led out of the courtroom, Guzman put his hand on his heart and waved to family members.
Outside court, U.S. Attorney Richard Donoghue told reporters, “Never again will Guzman pour poison over our borders.”
The sentencing was headline news in Mexico, but it was seen as unlikely to make a ripple in terms of the country’s politics, security or the unabated drug trade.
Mexican security analyst Alejandro Hope said Guzman’s fate will have “no impact” on trafficking. In the wake of Guzman’s arrest and extradition, Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada is believed to have long-ago consolidated control of the Sinaloa cartel.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.