Prosecutors seek sanctions against El Chapo lawyers for facilitating “unauthorized” contact with wife

Prosecutors seek sanctions against El Chapo lawyers for facilitating “unauthorized” contact with wife
NEW YORK—Prosecutors asked a judge on Tuesday to sanction the defence team for Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman for facilitating “unauthorized” contact between the Mexican drug lord and his wife during his federal trial in Brooklyn.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York filed heavily redacted court papers citing surveillance footage in which Guzman’s wife, Emma Coronel, was seen in possession of a cellphone in violation of courthouse policy.

In this file photo, members of the NYPD patrol while reporters gather outside of the Brooklyn Federal Courthouse, where Joaquín Guzmán Loera, the Mexican drug lord known as El Chapo, is on trial, Nov. 13, 2018.  (STEPHANIE KEITH / NYT)

Prosecutors said the “impermissible” contact happened “in concert with an attorney visit to the defendant following two trial days last week.”

The judge instructed defence lawyers to respond by week’s end to prosecutors’ complaints about them. Before testimony resumed, U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan said he would take up the issue next week after seeing the defence’s response. He said any immediate concerns had already been resolved.

Lawyers for Guzman did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Guzman’s wife was back in her regular spot in the courtroom gallery.

Federal authorities have imposed tight security measures throughout Guzman’s proceedings. Tuesday’s court filings referred to a “determination by the Attorney General that communications and contacts between the defendant and other persons could result in death or serious bodily injury to others.”

Guzman has been denied contact with his wife as a security measure since being brought to New York City to face drug conspiracy charges.

U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan, citing security risks, ruled that Guzman could not even hug his wife before the trial got underway, even as he praised the infamous drug smuggler for good conduct in solitary confinement.

The request for sanctions came as the trial entered its third week. The jury heard testimony Monday that Guzman orchestrated massive cocaine shipments that made him so rich he could pay multimillion-dollar bribes to a powerful police commander.

Miguel Angel Martinez told the jury that he worked for Guzman in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and that the Sinaloa cartel paid $10 million (U.S.) in drug money bribes at least twice to Guillermo Gonzalez Calderoni, a top law enforcement official in Mexico City. Calderoni, in exchange, tipped off the cartel about investigations and offered other protections that helped keep Guzman from getting caught, Martinez testified.
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