A federal magistrate in Brooklyn has recommended that accused cocaine kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman should be permitted contact visits with his lawyers instead of being separated by Plexiglas, taking the prisoner’s side in a dispute that has festered since his January extradition.
Guzman, who twice escaped Mexican jails, is being held in a high security section of the Manhattan federal jail. The government has argued that modifying the lawyer meeting room to allow contact visits would risk attacks or self-injury requiring hospitalization in a less secure facility.
But defense lawyers say that without contact visits, it’s nearly impossible to review together the thousands of pages of documents involved in his drug trafficking trial, and Magistrate Roanne Mann said physical alterations and, if necessary, shackling Guzman could make it secure.
Her recommendation still has to be approved by U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan. Prosecutors declined to comment Wednesday on Mann’s ruling. Guzman lawyer Eduardo Balarezo said her report was a “good first step” in allowing Guzman “to be able to fully defend himself.”
Guzman, 60, is charged with controlling the powerful Sinaloa Cartel, and using murder and other violence to traffic 20 tons of cocaine into the United States.