WASHINGTON — A federal judge in New York on Wednesday sentenced infamous drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman to life plus 30 years in prison for his decades-long reign of terror leading the vicious Sinaloa cartel in Mexico — moments after the convicted murderer complained about the conditions in the Manhattan jail where he has been held for two years.
“I have been physically, psychologically, mentally tortured 24 hours a day,” Guzman, 62, told U.S. District Court Judge Brian Cogan in Brooklyn, according to numerous media reports.
Joaquin Archivaldo Guzman Loera, who is 62 and is better known as El Chapo (“Shorty”), said in Spanish, through a translator, that he has been denied fresh water and air as well as sunlight — save for a few rays that managed to slip through a vent in his cell at the the Metropolitan Correctional Center.
He has been held in solitary confinement at the jail since January 2017, when he was extradited to the United States from Mexico.
After thanking wife Emma Coronel Aispuro and his lawyers for their support, Guzman lamented that while detained he was never allowed a visit from her nor was he permitted to hug their twin daughters, who turn 8 next month, according to news accounts.
He also accused the U.S. judicial system of being corrupt and said he did not receive a fair trial.
“I take advantage of the opportunity to say there was no justice here. My case was stained and you denied me a fair trial while the whole world was watching.
“The United States is no better than any other corrupt country,” he added, according to media reports to media reports.
Guzman’s comments in court mark the first time he has spoken publicly since he was extradited
But Cogan wasn’t moved by the tale of woe from the career criminal. Guzman’s cartel is known for its shocking violence. The multi-billion-dollar enterprise trafficked cocaine, heroin, marijuana and methamphetamine. The cartel used beheadings, hangings and dismemberments to punish and intimidate rivals, enemies and even journalists who dared to report on the group’s crimes.
During Guzman’s three-month jury trial, several witnesses testified about the ruthless leader’s hands-on role torturing and killing people who crossed him. One witness described Guzman shooting one man then ordering henchmen to bury him alive in a newly dug grave. Another witness described how Guzman beat victims until he broke their bones.
Guzman claimed in 2014 that he had killed 2,000 to 3,000 people.
On Feb. 12, a jury convicted him of 26 drug-related violations and one murder conspiracy.
After sentencing him to a mandatory life sentence, Judge Cogan then granted the prosecutors’ request by tacking on an additional 30 years for unlawful use of firearms. Guzman also was ordered to pay $12.6 billion. He will be ordered to pay restitution at a later time, the Justice Department said.
The sentencing brings to a close a three-decade saga that has at times — and sometimes concurrently — horrified and fascinated the world. El Chapo became somewhat of a folk hero in his native Mexico. His viciousness and callousness juxtaposed with his generosity to strangers intrigued many Mexicans who had a love-hate relationship with the cartel boss. While they abhorred the violence that the Sinaloa cartel inevitably wreaked over their cities and villages, Guzman’s iron grip over the country along with his extreme wealth and flamboyance lifestyle fascinated many who could not bring themselves to condemn him.
“The long road that brought ‘El Chapo’ Guzman Loera to a United States courtroom is lined with drugs, death, and destruction, but ends today with justice,” Assistant Attorney General Bryan Benczkowski said in a statement after the sentencing.
For years, Guzman was the most wanted man in his Mexico and the U.S. had offered a $5 million reward for information leading to his capture. He twice escaped maximum-security prisons: in 2001 he hid n a laundry cart and in 2015 he slithered through a tunnel while wearing nary a stitch of clothing.
After being recaptured in January 2016, he was extradited to the United States the following January. He has been held at the jail in Manhattan since that time.
His wife was suspected of helping him to escape at least once, as well as smuggling a cellphone to him behind bars. Coronel, who was born near San Francisco 30 years ago and holds dual citizenship in Mexico, reportedly married the drug lord on her 18th birthday. She regularly attended his trial and sometimes even brought their twins.
But Wednesday’s sentencing will likely be the last time the couple will be in the same room. She reportedly also will be banned from visiting him in the Supermax prison in Florence, Colo., where he probably will be locked up. The facility is located in the desert, about two hours south of Denver, and no inmate has ever escaped.
Prisoners are kept in individual soundproof cells for 23 hours a day and are allowed out one hour for exercise. After one year, they usually get more privileges. The goal is the to transfer them most inmates to less secure prisons in about three years.
Other infamous inmates at the prison include terrorists Ted “The Unabomber” Kayzinski, 9/11 planner Zacarias Moussaoui, Richard “The Shoebomber” Reed, Umar “The Underwear Bomber” Adbulmutallab and Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.
But El Chapo could well become the most notorious resident of the so-called Alcatraz of the Rockies. U.S. Attorney Fajardo Orsha of the Southern District of Florida said in a statement: “The impact of keeping former Sinaloa Cartel leader Joaquin Guzman Loera behind bars, for the rest of his life, cannot be overstated: the world will now be shielded from his brutality.”