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‘El Chapo’ Guzmán Sentenced to Life in Prison, Ending Notorious Criminal Career

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He was one of the most notorious outlaws of the last 100 years: a brutal Mexican cartel leader, a wily trafficker who smuggled more than $12 billion worth of drugs and plunged his country into a long-running tragedy of bloodshed and corruption.

But on Wednesday morning, the 30-year criminal career of Joaquín Guzmán Loera, known to the world as El Chapo, reached its final chapter as a federal judge in New York City sentenced him to life in prison.

The life term, mandated by law as a result of the severity of Mr. Guzmán’s crimes, was handed down in Federal District Court in Brooklyn, where the kingpin was convicted last winter of drug, murder and money laundering charges after a sprawling three-month trial.

As some of the federal agents who had chased him for years looked on from the gallery, Judge Brian M. Cogan issued the sentence and Mr. Guzmán, 62, was hauled away to prepare himself — pending an appeal — for spending the rest of his life behind bars.

Before he disappeared into a holding cell behind the courtroom, he blew a kiss to his wife, Emma Coronel Aispuro, who attended most of his trial and was implicated in a handful of his crimes.

Although Judge Cogan had no choice but to sentence Mr. Guzmán to life, he noted that the “overwhelming evil” of the drug lord’s crimes was readily apparent. Beyond the life sentence — plus an additional 30 years — he ordered him to pay a staggering $12.6 billion in forfeiture.

Looking disheveled and slightly out of sorts, Mr. Guzmán walked into the eighth-floor courtroom under guard shortly before 9:30 a.m. He wore a loosefitting gray suit, with his tie rakishly askew and a new-growth mustache darkening his upper lip.

Reading from a prepared statement, he said he had not received a fair trial and complained about his solitary confinement in Manhattan’s federal jail, calling it “psychological, emotional and mental torture 24 hours a day.”

“Since the government of the United States is going to send me to a prison where my name will never be heard again, I take advantage of this opportunity to say there was no justice here,” he said.

Though Judge Cogan did not specify where Mr. Guzmán would serve his sentence, he is likely to be sent to the country’s most forbidding federal prison, the United States Penitentiary Administrative Maximum Facility, or ADX, in Florence, Colo.

Where El Chapo Could End Up: A Prison ‘Not Designed for Humanity’

Feb. 15, 2019

Westlake Legal Group merlin_150665514_653eacd9-9cb2-402b-9cb7-84602b5318e4-threeByTwoSmallAt2X ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán Sentenced to Life in Prison, Ending Notorious Criminal Career smuggling Sinaloa Cartel Prisons and Prisoners Politics and Government Guzman Loera, Joaquin Drug Cartels Drug Abuse and Traffic Brooklyn (NYC)

Mr. Guzmán’s decades-long career atop the Sinaloa drug cartel, one of Mexico’s most powerful criminal mafias, came to a close only after years of joint investigation and pursuit by the American and Mexican authorities.

His ability to persistently evade capture — and then escape from prison after he was caught — underscored the deep corruption of the Mexican government by his cartel, which used bribery and intimidation to control not just the local, state and federal police, but some of the highest-ranking officials in the national government.

“It’s justice not only for the Mexican government, but for all of Guzmán’s victims in Mexico,” said Raymond P. Donovan, the agent in charge of the New York office of the Drug Enforcement Administration, who was instrumental in capturing the kingpin twice.

After the sentencing, one of Mr. Guzmán’s lawyers, Jeffrey Lichtman, spoke outside the courthouse in the Brooklyn Heights neighborhood, complaining, as his client had, that the lengthy legal proceeding had been unfair.

“All he wanted was justice and at the end of the day, he didn’t get it,” Mr. Lichtman said, adding, “It was a show trial, and it’s been so since Day 1.”

Moments later, Richard P. Donoghue, the United States attorney in Brooklyn, whose office prosecuted the case with colleagues from Miami and Washington, also addressed reporters.


Westlake Legal Group 17vid-chapo-still-videoSixteenByNine3000 ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán Sentenced to Life in Prison, Ending Notorious Criminal Career smuggling Sinaloa Cartel Prisons and Prisoners Politics and Government Guzman Loera, Joaquin Drug Cartels Drug Abuse and Traffic Brooklyn (NYC)

Joaquín Guzmán Loera, the drug lord known as El Chapo, was sentenced on Wednesday to life in prison plus 30 years.CreditCreditDrew Angerer/Getty Images

Mr. Donoghue said the authorities could not undo the misery Mr. Guzmán had caused, “but we can ensure that he spends every minute of every day of the rest of his life in prison.”

The trial took place under intense media scrutiny and tight security that involved bomb-sniffing dogs, police snipers and federal marshals with radiation sensors. The verdict on Feb. 12 came after more than a week of deliberations by the jury. Ultimately, Mr. Guzmán was found guilty on all 10 counts of the indictment.

Prosecutors leveled some of the most serious charges possible against him, presenting evidence that he sent hundreds of tons of drugs to the United States from Mexico and caused the deaths of dozens of people to protect himself and his smuggling routes.

The case revealed in exacting detail the inner workings of the Sinaloa drug cartel, such as how it employed I.T. consultants and how it packaged its cocaine in rubber “condoms.”

But given the defendant’s fame and notoriety, the trial was also a boisterous legal circus, complete with a horde of international reporters, a steady trickle of curious “narco-tourists” and a cameo appearance by an actor who plays the drug lord on a Netflix show.

The American authorities began their hunt for the kingpin as far back as the early 1990s, when he was indicted on separate federal charges in Tucson and San Diego.

The two indictments were filed just before and somewhat after he was arrested while on the run in Guatemala and then returned to Mexico, where he was tried and imprisoned for the 1993 murder of Juan Jesús Posadas Ocampo, a beloved Roman Catholic cardinal.

In 2001, however, Mr. Guzmán broke out of prison — by many accounts, in the bottom of a laundry cart — and spent the next 13 years playing cat-and-mouse with the law.

He evaded both arrest and the five subsequent indictments filed against him in the United States, largely by shuttling among a series of hide-outs in the Sierra Madre mountains in the Mexican state of Sinaloa.

In February 2012, the Mexican and American authorities came within inches of nabbing him in an ocean-view mansion in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.

But he was not caught until Mr. Donovan and a coalition of law enforcement and military officers on both sides of the border mounted an wiretap operation that cracked Mr. Guzmán’s communications network. He was found in a beachfront condominium in Mazatlán, Mexico, in February 2014.

Within a year and a half, however, he had escaped again — this time, through a sophisticated tunnel that opened into the shower of his prison cell. A coalition similar to the one that caught him in 2014 redoubled its efforts and captured the kingpin for a second time, after a violent gunfight, in Los Mochis, Mexico, in early 2016.

When Mr. Guzmán finally stood trial in New York in November, his conviction was all but assured given the mountains of evidence collected against him over the years.

Some of that evidence came from incriminating intercepts from the various wiretaps over which agents had for months been listening in on the kingpin and his underlings. But just as damaging were the 14 witnesses from inside his cartel — suppliers, distributors, top lieutenants, even one of his mistresses — who testified against him.

Since his extradition to the United States in January 2017, Mr. Guzmán has been held in 10 South, the maximum-security wing of the Manhattan federal jail. On Wednesday, he told Judge Cogan that since arriving there he had been forced to drink “unsanitary water” and wear earplugs made from toilet paper to drown out the racket of the ventilation system.

In response, Gina Parlovecchio, a federal prosecutor, said it was ironic that Mr. Guzmán had complained about undignified treatment in jail given that he showed no respect to his countless victims, not just those he killed or hunted, but the thousands who were harmed by the drugs he “pumped onto the streets,” earning him a vast fortune of “blood money.”

One of those victims, Andrea Velez, spoke out in court on Wednesday. She described through her tears how Mr. Guzmán had paid a Canadian chapter of the Hells Angels $1 million in a failed plot to murder her. Ms. Velez was at one point the personal assistant to one of the kingpin’s top lieutenants, Alex Cifuentes Villa, but eventually became an F.B.I. informant who spied on the drug lord and his allies.

“I’m a miracle of God,” Ms. Velez said, “because Mr. Guzmán tried to kill me.”

Emily Palmer contributed reporting.

Read more about El Chapo
The Epic Criminal Career of El Chapo Nears Its Final Chapter

July 16, 2019

El Chapo Earned $12,666,181,704, Prosecutors Say. They Want Him to Pay It Back.

July 7, 2019

El Chapo Is Behind Bars, but Drugs Still Flow From Mexico

Feb. 13, 2019

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Cyrus Vance’s Office Sought Reduced Sex-Offender Status for Epstein

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The arrest of Jeffrey E. Epstein on federal sex-trafficking charges has focused attention on the lenient plea bargain that state and federal prosecutors reached with him in Florida over similar charges more than a decade ago.

But the new indictment has also unexpectedly renewed scrutiny of another prosecutor’s treatment of Mr. Epstein: the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr.

During a hearing in 2011, a seasoned sex-crimes prosecutor from Mr. Vance’s office argued forcefully in court that Mr. Epstein, who had been convicted in Florida of soliciting an underage prostitute, should not be registered as a top-level sex offender in New York.


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A registered sex offender known for his lavish lifestyle and high-profile connections to the rich and powerful, the financier Jeffrey Epstein is facing new charges that he exploited dozens of young girls for sex acts.CreditCreditRick Friedman/Corbis, via Getty Images

Instead, the prosecutor, Jennifer Gaffney, asked a judge to reduce Mr. Epstein’s sex-offender status to the lowest possible classification, which would have limited the personal information available to the public, and would have kept him from being listed on a registry of sex offenders for life.

Justice Ruth Pickholz vehemently denied the request and expressed incredulity that the district attorney’s office would argue in support of a man accused of sexually molesting dozens of teenage girls in Florida.

“I have to tell you, I’m a little overwhelmed because I have never seen a prosecutor’s office do anything like this,” the judge told Ms. Gaffney.

Mr. Vance has said the request was a mistake and had been made by Ms. Gaffney without his knowledge.

Still, his office’s decision to take Mr. Epstein’s side in the hearing drew renewed criticism this week, as federal prosecutors in Manhattan brought new charges against Mr. Epstein, a wealthy financier whose social circle has included President Trump and former President Bill Clinton.

Bill Clinton and Jeffrey Epstein: How Are They Connected?

July 9, 2019

He was arrested on Saturday after his plane landed at Teterboro Airport in New Jersey. An indictment unveiled on Monday said he “sexually exploited and abused dozens of minor girls” from 2002 to 2005 in his palatial homes in Manhattan and Palm Beach, Fla.

It is not the first time Mr. Vance has been harshly criticized for his office’s handling of allegations against rich and influential men. He drew fire for declining to prosecute the Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein in 2015 on charges that he groped an Italian model in his TriBeCa office. His office later charged Mr. Weinstein with sex crimes involving two other women.

Mr. Vance had also found himself under attack for declining to pursue charges against two of Mr. Trump’s children, Ivanka and Donald Jr., in 2015, after they were accused of misleading investors in a condo-hotel project.

Mr. Vance’s critics have said his office’s support of Mr. Epstein’s motion was yet another example of Mr. Vance’s office giving preferential treatment to wealthy defendants — this time to a man accused of being a serial predator who targeted minors.

Why the Trump White House Is Caught Up in the Jeffrey Epstein Scandal

July 7, 2019

In Florida, Mr. Epstein hired a cadre of high-powered lawyers to fight the charges against him. The team eventually negotiated a lenient plea bargain with federal prosecutors that allowed him to plead guilty to state prostitution charges. He spent 13 months at a Palm Beach jail and was permitted to leave the facility six days a week, 12 hours a day, for work.

One of those lawyers, Jay Lefkowitz, also lobbied Mr. Vance’s office to have Mr. Epstein’s sex-offender status knocked down.

“Was it preferential treatment at the highest level, or is it that the Manhattan district attorney’s office is not run well enough to ensure that sex crimes are investigated and taken seriously?” said Sonia Ossorio, the president of the New York City arm of the National Organization for Women. “Either way it’s unacceptable.”

For his part, Mr. Vance denied in an interview that his office had ever given preferential treatment to any defendant because of wealth or social status. He said that claim is “simply wrong and is inconsistent and opposite to what I believe in and to what the lawyers in this office believe in.”

Ms. Gaffney, who was a senior sex crimes prosecutor, argued during the hearing that Mr. Epstein did not merit the highest offender status because he had not been indicted in Florida on all of the accusations against him. Several of his accusers had refused to cooperate, she told the judge, court records show.

She made the argument even though the New York state panel that evaluates people convicted of sex crimes — the Board of Examiners of Sex Offenders — had calculated that Mr. Epstein had a high risk of reoffending. His risk assessment was 130 — “solidly above” the 110 threshold for a level 3 offender, court records show.

The board had based its decision, in part, on a 22-page affidavit from detectives in the Palm Beach Police Department that detailed complaints from minors who said Mr. Epstein had molested them — a document Ms. Gaffney also had.

Yet Ms. Gaffney argued — incorrectly it turned out — that because Mr. Epstein was indicted on only one of those crimes, the other allegations could not be considered when determining sex-offender status.

“If an offender is not indicted for an offense, it is strong evidence that the offense did not occur,” Ms. Gaffney said.

The judge said she had done many sex-offender registration hearings with defendants “much less troubling than this one” and that prosecutors “would never make a downward argument like this.”

Ms. Gaffney then told the judge she had tried to reach prosecutors in Florida to learn if they had spoken with Mr. Epstein’s accusers, but “no one was cooperative.”

“I don’t think you did much of an investigation here,” Justice Pickholz said.

Mr. Epstein’s lawyers, Mr. Lefkowitz and Sandra Musumeci, also argued for the lower rating. They noted their client had been rated a level-one sex offender in the United States Virgin Islands, his legal residence, and had received a similar rating in Florida.

Five months before the hearing, the lawyers had supplied Manhattan prosecutors with a deposition in which the lead prosecutor in Palm Beach, Lanna Belohlavek, told detectives “there are no real victims here,” Ms. Musumeci said in court.

Justice Pickholz was unmoved and labeled Mr. Epstein a level-three sex offender, which meant his name and address would be on a state registry of sex offenders for life. His lawyers appealed the decision, but an appellate panel upheld the ruling.

During the appeal, the Manhattan district attorney’s office did an about-face, admitting Ms. Gaffney had misinterpreted the law and stating there was “no basis for a downward departure” from the highest rating.

On Tuesday, Mr. Vance said he had not learned about the hearing or the subsequent appeal until well after they happened. He added he had not even heard of Mr. Epstein at the time, and he was not typically kept informed about every sex-offender status hearing.

He said in reviewing the transcript of the hearing he did not believe Ms. Gaffney “was going out on a ledge for the defendant.”

“I see the lawyer for our office arguing on a point of law where she thought she was right but she was wrong,” he said.

Ms. Gaffney, who was never disciplined for her decision, left the Manhattan district attorney’s office in September. She did not respond to messages on Tuesday seeking comment.

Jeffrey Epstein, Billionaire Long Accused of Molesting Minors, Is Charged

July 6, 2019

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Global Health: Measles Cases Surpass 700 as Outbreak Continues Unabated

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The measles outbreak continues to spread in the United States, surpassing 700 cases this year, federal health officials said on Monday. The virus has now been found in 22 states.

More than 500 of the 704 cases recorded as of last Friday were in people who had not been vaccinated, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported. Sixty-six people have been hospitalized.

About 400 of the cases have been found in New York City and its suburbs, mostly in Orthodox Jewish communities. That outbreak has spread to Detroit.

Los Angeles is now experiencing a fast-growing outbreak, and hundreds of university students who are thought to have been exposed and cannot prove that they have had their shots have been asked to quarantine themselves at home.

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Last Wednesday, the C.D.C. said the number of cases had surpassed the previous high of 667, set in 2014. This year’s outbreak is the largest since the disease was declared eliminated in the United States in 2000. In 1994, there were 963 cases.

Elimination in 2000 meant measles virus was no longer circulating in the United States, as it presumably had since European settlers first brought it to this hemisphere in the 15th or 16th century. Each year after 2000, a few cases arrived from overseas, either in immigrants or in returning tourists, but each outbreak was snuffed out.

More than 94 percent of American parents vaccinate their children against measles and other diseases, Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the C.D.C., said on Monday.

His agency “is working to reach the small percentage of vaccine-hesitant individuals,” he said. “Vaccines are safe and do not cause autism.”

About 100,000 children in this country underage 2 have not been vaccinated, he said, meaning they are vulnerable in this outbreak.

Some infants are not immunized because their parents avoid vaccination. Others cannot be protected either because they are allergic to components of the vaccine or are, for example, taking cancer or organ-transplant medications that suppress their immune systems.

“We must join together as a nation to once again eliminate measles,” Dr. Redfield said.

This year’s widespread outbreak was sparked by people infected with measles who have come into this country since last year, the C.D.C. said. The measles strains detected were most frequently from Ukraine, Israel and the Philippines.

[Get answers to common questions about the measles outbreak.]

Communities have begun to take extraordinary measures to slow the infection rate and crack down on resistance to immunization.

New York City’s Mayor Bill de Blasio declared a state of emergency and threatened residents of four Brooklyn ZIP codes with $1,000 fines if they refused to vaccinate. City officials closed a yeshiva preschool for violating vaccination orders.

Rockland County, N.Y., the center of another outbreak, initially barred unvaccinated children from all indoor public places, including schools, malls, supermarkets, restaurants and houses of worship.

After a court blocked that order, the county instead barred from public spaces anyone who had measles symptoms or who had recently been exposed to the disease, threatening them with fines of up to $2,000 a day.

There have been no confirmed measles deaths in this country, but officials have said it is just a matter of time.

[Here’s our full coverage about the measles outbreak.]

Even with modern medical care, the disease normally kills about one out of every 1,000 victims, according to the C.D.C.

Pneumonia and encephalitis — swelling of the brain — are the most common severe complications, and epidemics among malnourished children who cannot get modern hospital care have mortality rates of 10 percent or more, according to the World Health Organization.

Measles is among the most contagious of diseases. Virus-laced droplets can hover in still indoor air for up to two hours after someone infected has coughed or sneezed. Up to 90 percent of people who are exposed will catch the virus if they are not immunized.

The vaccine is considered very safe, and two doses are about 97 percent effective at conferring immunity. The vaccine is normally given at ages 1 and 5, but during outbreaks pediatricians may give it to healthy children as young as six months old.

Around the world, measles cases fell 80 percent between 2000 and 2016, with deaths dropping to 90,000 a year from 550,000. But two years ago, cases began rebounding, driven by a combination of poverty, warfare, tight vaccine supplies and, in some countries, hesitation about vaccination.

Earlier this month, the W.H.O. said there were three times as many measles cases around the world this year as there were in the first three months of 2018.

Outbreaks of tens of thousands of cases have occurred recently in poor or war-torn countries like Madagascar, Ukraine and Yemen. But case numbers are also climbing in wealthy countries with modern health care systems, like Israel, Britain, France and Italy. Deaths from measles have occurred in those countries.

Before measles vaccination became widespread in the United States in 1963, up to four million Americans got measles each year, the C.D.C. said. Of the roughly 500,000 cases that were reported to medical authorities each year back then, about 48,000 were hospitalized, 4,000 developed encephalitis, and 400 to 500 died.

Nationally, since the mid-1990s, more than 91 percent of American children have been vaccinated against measles.

Anyone born before 1957 is assumed to have had the disease as a child and to be immune to it.

Americans born between 1957 and 1989 are in something of a middle ground. Some got the early “killed virus” vaccine, which later proved to be too short-lived and was replaced by a “weakened virus” vaccine. Until 1989, it was routine to give one shot; now children get two.

One shot of the new vaccine provides 93 percent immunity in the overall population, while two shots drive that up to 97 percent, which is considered more than enough to keep the virus from spreading.

But each individual’s immune system is different, so some Americans worried about the current outbreak have visited their doctors for a simple blood test that can show how immune they are to measles, mumps and rubella.

Immunization levels vary from state to state, largely dependent on how easy state legislatures make it to get exemptions. All states permit exemptions for children who are allergic to the vaccine, have a compromised immune system or have another medical reason to avoid it.

Some states permit religious exemptions, even though no major religion opposes vaccination, and a few states also permit “philosophical” or “personal choice” exemptions.

Only Mississippi, West Virginia and California allow solely medical exemptions; California previously had a very permissive law, but it changed it after the measles outbreak that began at Disneyland in 2014. Now the state has high vaccination rates among kindergartners.

Some states with high vaccination rates have “pockets of unvaccinated people,” the C.D.C. said. At various times, some religious minorities like Orthodox Jews and the Amish in Ohio have had low vaccination rates.

Some wealthy liberal communities, like Vashon Island in Washington State, have also had low rates. Recently conservative groups opposed to vaccines have sprung up, such as Texans for Vaccine Choice, which is associated with the Tea Party.

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