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Judge sets trial for accused drug lord El Chapo for April 2018

A judge set a trial date of April

A judge set a trial date of April 2018 for Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, an alleged drug kingpin accused of drug trafficking and other charges, on Friday, May 5, 2017. Photo Credit: AP

A judge on Friday scheduled the trial of accused Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán for April 2018 during a brief hearing in Brooklyn federal court.

Defense lawyers were openly skeptical about whether the case will be ready for trial by then, but after U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan set the date, prosecutor Andrea Goldbarg said she anticipated the April 16 trial would take two to three months.

“I realize it is somewhat aspirational . . . but let’s give it the old college try,” Cogan said.

The hearing came one day after the judge issued an 18-page ruling that refused relief on a series of complaints from Guzmán about high-security solitary confinement conditions in the Manhattan federal jail where he is being held.

Cogan dismissed an offer from Amnesty International to visit Guzmán and report on conditions, and upheld a ban on visits or phone calls with his wife, Emma Coronel Aispuro, which officials fear Guzmán could use to pass coded messages and keep running his alleged drug empire.

At Friday’s hearing, Guzmán’s lawyers complained the tight security even prevented them from contact visits with their client. They said that to discuss a document, they had to hold it up to a Plexiglas divider to show Guzmán, a procedure that inhibited preparation for a trial next year.

Cogan said he didn’t want to “micromanage” the prison and didn’t want to make special rules for Guzmán that were different from other high-security prisoners, but he agreed to have a U.S. magistrate investigate, visit the jail and advise him on alternatives for lawyer-client meetings.

Coronel, dressed in white, was present Friday in the front row of the courtroom, and Guzmán, wearing a blue prison smock, looked in her direction repeatedly during the hearing.

She did not speak to reporters after the hearing. “He and his wife are both upset that they are not going to be able to see each other,” defense lawyer Michael Schneider said.

Guzmán, 59, has been held in the high-security wing of the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan since he was extradited from Mexico in January.

He is charged with running the Sinaloa Cartel, a murderously violent cocaine smuggling enterprise, and he twice escaped from prisons in Mexico.

Schneider and another defense lawyer, Michelle Gelernt, said Friday that they plan to file a motion to dismiss the charges, alleging that his extradition to Brooklyn was illegal.

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