It could have been called The Kingpin’s Speech.
“El Chapo” almost got the chance to sound off Thursday on his jail conditions and his family’s need to pay his lawyers — but Brooklyn Federal Judge Brian Cogan scuttled the address.
As Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman heads to trial in September, his lawyer, A. Eduardo Balarezo, told the judge his client wanted to make it clear to his family and everyone else he plans to go to trial and won’t take a plea deal — and needs to get his defense lawyers paid.
But Cogan questioned why he needed to hear any of this directly from Guzman rather than from his lawyers. Members of Guzman’s clan — including his beauty queen wife Emma Coronel and their little twin daughters — watched on.
“Sometimes people need to hear it from the horse’s mouth,” Balarezo told the judge. “With all due respect, there are persons we are dealing with who don’t necessarily rely on attorneys’ word. That’s all I’m saying.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrea Goldbarg worried Guzman would be sending secret messages with his monologue. There were already rules on how Guzman could communicate to his family through pre-screened letters, she said.
But Balarezo said Guzman’s letters to family haven’t been received. Balarezo noted prosecutors were allowing him to hand deliver Coronel a letter from Guzman — but he said Guzman wanted to get in his two cents right there.
Cogan let Guzman briefly confirm with a quick “yes,” that Balarezo was accurately describing the situation. “I may yet hear from him,” Cogan said, “But not today. It’s too sudden.”
Cogan said jury selection in Guzman’s massive drug trafficking case would start Sept. 5.
Outside court, Balarezo told reporters he has received “partial payment” for representing Guzman from “friends” of Guzman who “helped him pay that first partial payment but they’re not in a position to pay the remainder.”
Balarezo wouldn’t specify the people Guzman was trying to speak to with his declaration, but he said they knew who they were.
It wasn’t just about his own fees, Balarezo said. It was also about getting the money to fund investigations and preparation ahead of trial.
Meanwhile, Balarezo said his client’s health is suffering in solitary confinement at the Metropolitan Correctional Center. Guzman’s too hot, too cold, experiencing headaches and vomiting almost regularly, according to Balarezo.
“His existence is in that cell,” he said.
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