US judge won't let El Chapo out of solitary confinement

Posted May 06, 2017

New York, May 4 A USA judge granted limited relaxations today to the stringent custody conditions of Mexican drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman and allowed him to write to his beauty queen wife. Cogan suggested Guzman take his complaints to the Bureau of Prisons and only present them to him if the process is hindered by jail officials. He agreed to let Guzman communicate with his wife but only through letters screened by federal agents.

Mexican drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman returned to a Brooklyn courtroom as his lawyer fights to relieve restrictive jail conditions.

As the judge pressed through questions to be sure Guzman had been properly informed of potential conflict-of-interest issues and was not pressured into keeping his lawyers, the defendant said: "Yes, sir, I am making my own decisions".

In a statement, defense attorneys Michelle Gelernt and Michael Schneider called it "devastating" for both Guzman and his wife that they won't be allowed jail visits.

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"The conditions are reasonably necessary to ensure that defendant can not coordinate any escape from prison, direct any violence against cooperators, or manage any aspect of the Sinaloa Cartel's enterprise", he wrote.

The judge seemed to agree that it was too cumbersome for Guzman and his lawyers to be separated by a partition while reviewing mounds of paperwork and said he would send a magistrate to the lockup to review the situation.

Guzman has pleaded not guilty to charges he ran a multi-billion dollar drug trafficking cartel that was responsible for murders and kidnappings.

In his most recent escape in 2015, Guzman walked out of prison through a mile-long, highly engineered tunnel from his cell, a sign of the huge influence he was able to wield even from behind bars.

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Cogan's ruling revealed that Guzman is visited by his lawyers nearly every day at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan, for an average of four to five hours in a windowed visitor room.

Guzman arrived at the Brooklyn courthouse just before 7 a.m. Friday surrounded by a motorcade of several law enforcement vehicles.

U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan in Brooklyn federal court acknowledged at a hearing Friday that the date was "somewhat aspirational" and could be delayed, given the complexity of the case and the amount of evidence that lawyers must review ahead of trial.

Federal Judge Brian Cogan said the USA government could apply tough jail conditions on a man who escaped once through a mile-long tunnel stretching from the shower in his cell.

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