U.S. prosecutors to El Chapo jury: 'Do not let him escape'

NEW YORK, USA – US federal prosecutors on Wednesday, January 30, urged a New York jury to convict Mexican drug kingpin Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, saying the "avalanche of evidence" presented over the past 3 months proved his guilt.

In more than 6 hours of closing arguments, US assistant attorney Andrea Goldbarg painstakingly summarized her team's case against the former Sinaloa cartel boss, who faces life in prison if convicted on trafficking, firearms and money laundering charges.

Jurors heard testimony from 56 people, including 14 of Guzman's former employees, were shown hundreds of documents, and heard dozens of phone calls between the accused drug lord and others. They also read intercepted text messages and letters he wrote from prison.

"We've presented an avalanche of evidence," Goldbarg told the 12 members of the jury under the watchful eyes of 61-year-old Guzman, dressed in a dark suit, and his ex-beauty queen wife Emma Coronel.

"Do not let him escape responsibility. Hold him accountable for his crimes. Find him guilty on all counts."

Extradited to the United States two years ago, after two spectacular escapes from Mexican prisons, Guzman stands accused of pocketing $14 billion over a quarter-century.

"Why did he escape? Because he knew he was guilty," Goldbarg said. "He wanted to avoid being sent to the US... He wanted to avoid sitting right there, in front of you."

The prosecution placed rifles – including an AK-47 – a bulletproof vest and several bricks of cocaine seized from the cartel in front of jurors.

"In the opening arguments, we told you this case was about drugs, money and violence," Goldbarg said.

"Over 25 years, the defendant rose through the ranks to become the principal leader of the Sinaloa cartel. His goal was to distribute as much drugs as possible to the United States, his goal was to make millions of dollars in profits."

'Getting his hands dirty'

As Goldbarg spoke, hundreds of photos of Guzman and his associates, videos, maps and text messages scrolled by on a large screen in the Brooklyn courtroom – a stream of evidence gathered by prosecutors for more than a decade.

As she spoke, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador announced that he was ending the years-long military campaign against the drug cartels, and that prosecuting kingpins was no longer a priority for his government.

"We want peace, we are going to achieve peace," Lopez Obrador said.

But back in New York, Goldbarg recalled disturbing testimony heard by the jury last week from Chapo's former hitman Isaias Valdez Rios, who told the court that Guzman had tortured two members of the Zetas cartel before throwing them in a bonfire.

"The defendant wasn't afraid of getting his hands dirty," Goldbarg said.

Guzman's lawyers have presented him as the scapegoat of a corrupt Mexican government and accused his co-defendant – Zambada, who is currently on the lam – of being the cartel's true leader.

As he listened to the prosecutor, Guzman took notes and even smiled at one point.

His attorneys will present their closing arguments on Thursday. The jury could then begin deliberations on Friday. – Rappler.com