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El Chapo defense calls one witness and rests after prosecution’s 11-week case

Image provided by the Attorney General of the Republic (PGR) of Mexico shows drug lord Joaquin Guzman Loera, alias "El Chapo," is extradited to the United States on January 19, 2017, and flown from a jail in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, to Long Island MacArthur Airport in Islip, N.Y., to face charges. (PGR/Prensa Internacional/Zuma Press/TNS)

After 56 prosecution witnesses over 11 weeks, the defense in the “El Chapo” trial presented its case Tuesday — for a mere 30 minutes.

Testimony in the long-awaited trial of Joaquin Guzman ended with a legal letdown as his lawyers summoned just a single witness before resting their case in the high-profile prosecution.

The defense presentation ran as long as the typical TV sitcom and followed the prosecution’s bombshell allegations of big-money bribes and brutal murders.

Fireworks could follow during closing arguments, with prosecutors addressing the jurors Wednesday and chief El Chapo lawyer Jeffrey Lichtman following a day later.

Lichtman is expected to focus his summation on a man who never set foot in the courtroom: Most-wanted drug dealer Isamel (El Mayo) Zambada Garcia.

In his November opening statement, Litchman insisted that El Mayo was the real drug kingpin and his client was the victim of a conspiracy.

“The world is focusing on this mythical ‘El Chapo’ creature,” said Lichtman. “The world is not focusing on ‘Mayo’ Zambada.”

Brooklyn Federal Court Judge Brian Cogan warned Lichtman on Tuesday to steer clear in his summation of allegations that the Mexican government colluded with the 71-year-old Zambada to “pin a target” on El Chapo.

“There’s nothing suggesting that,” said Cogan. “Off limits.”

The defense rolled out its defense case by calling FBI Agent John Roberts — and no one else — to take the witness stand. As promised, Guzman sat behind the defense table rather than testify under oath in his own defense.

Prosecutors, in contrast, questioned nearly five dozen witnesses, including 13 former compatriots of El Chapo who switched sides to testify against the accused Sinaloa Cartel mastermind.

Guzman faces life in prison if convicted on the top charges in the 11-count indictment. Even an acquittal is a no-win: El Chapo still faces charges in Illinois, Texas, California and New Hampshire.

Lichtman queried G-man Roberts about inconsistent statements allegedly made by Colombian narco Jorge Cifuentes in 2017. The defense lawyer, with his one witness, tried to undermine prosecution witness Cifuentes’ credibility and boost the conspiracy defense.

The attorney asked about testimony given last month by Cifuentes regarding information that he supposedly received on a USB stick from a Colombian Navy officer.

In his notes, agent Roberts allegedly misstated that the USB stick, containing sensitive information on the Sinaloa Cartel, was provided to Cifuentes by a U.S. Navy officer.

Lichtman’s attempt at highlighting the agent’s sloppy note-taking was met with a half-dozen objections from federal prosecutors, who sought to block questioning intended to elicit criticism of the U.S. government from the FBI agent.

El Chapo’s legal team also entered a stipulation into evidence that the cocaine kingpin’s right-hand man, Alex Cifuentes, flip-flopped on the witness stand about Guzman’s finances — initially claiming in government debriefings that the drug kingpin was $20 million in debt in 2007 and 2013.

Alex Cifuentes, younger brother of Jorge, would not confirm during his testimony whether that number was accurate.

“With that, the defense rests,” Lichtman told the court.

Jurors were sent home after the brief morning session, with the lawyers and trial judge meeting to discuss legal matters.


© 2019 New York Daily News

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