As expected, federal prosecutors on Wednesday asked a judge to sentence Joaquin Guzmán, the brutal Mexican drug cartel leader known as “El Chapo,” to life in prison.
Prosecutors said in February — when Guzmán, 62, was convicted of 10 broad counts of drug trafficking, weapons trafficking and money laundering — the he should never leave prison. They had agreed not to seek the death sentence in exchange for Guzmán’s extradition from Mexico.
In a sentencing letter filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn, prosecutors asked Judge Brian Cogan to send Guzmán to maximum security for life, plus 30 years.
“The overwhelming evidence at trial showed that the defendant was a ruthless and bloodthirsty leader of the Sinaloa Cartel,” the Justice Department wrote in a five-page letter, adding:
“Testimony showed that the Sinaloa Cartel was one of the most powerful drug trafficking organizations in Mexico, and that it was able to seize control of vast swaths of territory throughout Mexico. It did so by wielding extraordinary violence, including kidnapping, torture and murder.”
Almost five dozen witnesses testified to Guzmán’s oversight of industrial-scale drug smuggling — prosecutors said he was responsible for shipping more than 200 tons of cocaine to the United States — brutal murders and political payoffs in his three-month trial.
Jurors were told that Guzmán once punished a man for working for another cartel by burning him with an iron, leaving him in a henhouse for days and then shooting him before burying him alive.
Another witness alleged that Guzmán paid a $100 million bribe to former Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto. Peña Nieto denied the allegation.
Guzmán twice escaped from Mexican prisons, once in 2001 and again in 2015, this time through a mile-long tunnel under his cell.
Cogan, the judge, denied Guzmán’s request for a new trial last week, saying in a written ruling Wednesday that the “mountain range of evidence” overcame any possible claims that the jury had been tainted.