"El Chapo" won’t be allowed to have a hug with his wife before his drug trafficking trial starts on Tuesday in Brooklyn federal court, a judge ruled on Thursday.
The accused Mexican drug kingpin, Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzmán Loera, has been held in high-security confinement and cut off from family contact since his extradition last year, but his lawyers asked for a brief exemption to hug Emma Coronel Aispuro, his wife, before the trial starts.
Brooklyn U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan said he was “sympathetic” to the request and even praised Guzmán for displaying “grace under pressure” under tough conditions since arriving in the United States, but ruled that he had to defer to U.S. Marshals.
“The Marshals have stressed that acceding to the request would be contrary to all the security procedures that have been put in place . . . and would treat defendant differently than any other person in the Marshals’ custody who is subject to such measures,” Cogan wrote.
Tight security — known as SAMs, or Special Administrative Measures — has been imposed because Guzmán twice escaped jails in Mexico, and allegedly was able run his criminal empire through intermediaries while he was in prison. Prosecutors say a son is now in charge.
Those measures, including a restriction on physical contact or communication with his wife, Cogan ruled, “are tailored to the Government’s legitimate objectives of preventing defendant from coordinating any escape from prison or directing any attack on individuals who might be cooperating with the Government.”
“If anything,” the judge added, “this is especially true on the eve of trial, when the reality of the potential liability defendant faces if convicted may be setting in and his motivation to escape or threaten witnesses might be particularly strong.”
The judge and lawyers finished picking a jury on Wednesday. Guzmán is charged with directing a criminal organization that smuggled $14 billion worth of drugs into the United States and maintaining his control through intimidation and violence.