UPDATE 2:53 p.m. EST:
U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan set an April 2018 trial date for Mexican drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman on charges he helped run a multibillion-dollar international drug trafficking organization that led to several deaths and kidnappings, the AP reported. He settled on the April 16 date after acknowledging the difficulty in defense lawyers are encountering due to Guzman's solitary confinement restrictions.
The 59-year-old entered a packed courtroom on Friday, which included his wife, a former beauty queen who smiled and waved to him from her seat among spectators.
Guzman also spoke directly to the judge, affirming that he wanted to keep his lawyers from the Federal Defenders of New York despite the government's warning of possible conflicts of interest. Four potential trial witnesses against Guzman had been represented in the past by the same office.
UPDATE May 5, 5:57 a.m.: Mexican drug kingpin Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán is scheduled to appear in court Friday, a day after a federal judge ruled that Guzman must remain in solitary confinement as he awaits trial in New York.
Guzman, who was extradited to the U.S. in the waning hours of the Obama administration, faces 17 criminal charges and a maximum life sentence. Court filings reveal the cartel boss and prison is still searching for a lawyer. He's reportedly met with at least 16 private attorneys in the last three months.
ORIGINAL STORY: Since his extradition from Mexico to the United States, notorious drug lord Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán Loera has repeatedly complained about his jail restrictions in a Lower Manhattan high-security prison. But despite his efforts to free himself of solitary confinement, the federal judge overseeing El Chapo's case rejected nearly all of his requests to loosen his terms of imprisonment, which are known as "special administrative measures," or SAMs, the New York Times reported.
Explaining the reasoning behind his decision, Judge Brian Cogan cited El Chapo's record of escaping Mexican prison twice. As a result, Cogan ruled, the former head of the Sinaloa cartel will be allowed a limited number of visitors and a restricted ability to communication with the external world until he goes to trial.
“I recognize that the SAMs impose burdens on a defendant that an average general population prisoner does not have to bear, but the SAMs, as a whole, are rationally connected to a legitimate government objective,” Judge Cogan wrote in an order filed in Federal District Court in Brooklyn.
That objective, the judge continued, was to prevent El Chapo “from running the Sinaloa cartel from prison, coordinating any escape from prison, or directing any attack on individuals that he may believe are cooperating with the government.”
Since his arrival in the U.S., El Chapo spends 23 hours a day locked in his cell. He also has been denied all contact with his family and the media.
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