HomeNewsBriefUS Judge Casts Cloud Over El Chapo’s All-Star Defense Prospects
BRIEF

US Judge Casts Cloud Over El Chapo’s All-Star Defense Prospects

EL CHAPO / 15 AUG 2017 BY PARKER ASMANN EN

A US judge has refused to rule out the possibility that the defense lawyers looking to represent Mexico’s most famous drug lord, Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, could see their legal fees seized, a tactic previously wielded by US authorities attempting to secure the cooperation of high-profile defendants.

At an August 14 hearing, US federal judge Brian Cogan told the lawyers that they would have to assume the risk that the state might seize money earned as payment for their services if they go on to represent the Sinaloa Cartel leader, the Associated Press reported.

On August 8, the New York Times reported that El Chapo had ceased working with the public defenders he was provided and had instead hired private lawyers including Jeffrey Lichtman, most famous for successfully defending John “Junior” Gotti, the son of a New York crime boss. 

However, Lichtman had not yet submitted his official notice of appearance due to the concerns regarding payment. His prospective defense team includes the lawyer who represented Guzmán rival Alfredo Beltrán Leyva.

SEE ALSO: Sinaloa Cartel News and Profile

The lawyers that El Chapo wants to bring into his defense team are reportedly seeking assurances that the US government will not at any point seize their earnings under allegations that they could be linked to drug money. The US government is hoping to seize up to $14 billion in criminal assets as part of the case against El Chapo.

Guzmán was extradited to the United States in January 2017. He is set to stand trial in April 2018. 

InSight Crime Analysis 

The US judge’s decision reflects a tactic used in the past by US authorities to put pressure on lawyers defending high-profile criminals: If they do not convince their client to cooperate, their payment funds may be targeted.

One example is that of former Medellín Cartel member Fabio Ochoa Vásquez, who was convicted by US authorities in 2003 on drug trafficking charges after pleading innocent and going to trial. Ochoa was defended by US attorney Roy Black, who in 2001 hired lawyer Benedict Kuehne to vet some $5.2 million in legal fees paid by Ochoa. Kuehne confirmed the money was from “legitimate sources,” but prosecutors later accused Kuehne of money laundering for approving the $5.2 million in legal fees, an investigation that was later dropped.

SEE ALSOCoverage of Extradition

It remains to be seen if El Chapo will collaborate with US authorities by providing information on the Sinaloa Cartel and its rivals. So far, he has pleaded not guilty. But it is very common for organized crime defendants facing similar charges to strike plea bargains with prosecutors in order to lighten their potential sentences. The court’s refusal to guarantee the security of the lawyers’ fees in the El Chapo case could be intended to encourage his legal team to encourage him to make a deal.

Compartir icon icon icon

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Related Content

CRIMINAL MIGRATION / 14 NOV 2014

Peru has the second largest number of Mexican prisoners of any country after the United States, the vast majority of…

ARMS TRAFFICKING / 11 NOV 2011

U.S. President Barack Obama said his administration has no plans to implement new controls on arms sales, despite acknowledging the…

CUBA / 9 SEP 2019

Cubans now top the list of foreign criminals in the southern Mexican state of Quintana Roo, with the region’s shifting…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

We Have Updated Our Website

4 FEB 2021

Welcome to our new home page. We have revamped the site to create a better display and reader experience.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Events – Border Crime: The Northern Triangle and Tri-Border Area

ARGENTINA / 25 JAN 2021

Through several rounds of extensive field investigations, our researchers have analyzed and mapped out the main illicit economies and criminal groups present in 39 border departments spread across the six countries of study – the Northern Triangle trio of Guatemala, Honduras, and El…

BRIEF

InSight Crime’s ‘Memo Fantasma’ Investigation Wins Simón Bolívar National Journalism Prize

COLOMBIA / 20 NOV 2020

The staff at InSight Crime was awarded the prestigious Simón Bolívar national journalism prize in Colombia for its two-year investigation into the drug trafficker known as “Memo Fantasma,” which was…

ANALYSIS

InSight Crime – From Uncovering Organized Crime to Finding What Works

COLOMBIA / 12 NOV 2020

This project began 10 years ago as an effort to address a problem: the lack of daily coverage, investigative stories and analysis of organized crime in the Americas. …

ANALYSIS

InSight Crime – Ten Years of Investigating Organized Crime in the Americas

FEATURED / 2 NOV 2020

In early 2009, Steven Dudley was in Medellín, Colombia. His assignment: speak to a jailed paramilitary leader in the Itagui prison, just south of the city. Following his interview inside…