nb_cid nb_clickOther -tt-nb this.style.behavior='url(#default#homepage)';this.setHomePage('http://www.aol.com/?mtmhp=acm50ieupgradebanner_112313 network-banner-empty upgradeBanner
AOL Mail
AOL Mail
AOL Favorites

US prosecutors jockeying to try captured drug lord

US Prosecutors Jockeying To Try Captured Drug Lord

WASHINGTON (AP) - Federal prosecutors across the United States are already jockeying over who will handle any case against drug kingpin Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, even though it's far from clear whether he'll ever be brought to this country to face charges.

Who in the U.S. gets to prosecute the longtime fugitive, apprehended over the weekend in Mexico and now charged with violating his country's drug trafficking laws, likely will turn on which office has the strongest case - and perhaps some politics.

"You want No. 1 to be the best shot that you have," said David Weinstein, a former assistant U.S. attorney in the Southern District of Florida in Miami who helped prosecute several high-profile suspected drug traffickers from Colombia and Haiti in his 11 years in the office. "What do they say? If you shoot at the king, you make sure you hit him in the head."

At least seven federal district courts have indictments pending against Guzman on a variety of charges, and several already are pressing for extradition. He had been dubbed "public enemy No. 1" in Chicago even before his arrest at a Mexican beach resort. He's wanted as well by federal prosecutors in New York City, and years-old indictments in San Diego and Texas charge Guzman with masterminding a mammoth cocaine trafficking operation.

The Justice Department hasn't said whether it plans to seek extradition, allowing only that it will be "the subject of further discussion between the United States and Mexico."

Guzman is imprisoned in Mexico, where a judge will soon decide whether to release him or start the process of bringing him to trial. His lawyers filed an appeal Monday seeking to halt any attempt to extradite him, a common legal tactic used by drug suspects in Mexico.

Any extradition request and its timing will be determined at the highest levels of the Justice Department, almost certainly with input from the State Department, said Marcos Jimenez, a former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida whose cases have included several high-ranking Colombian drug cartel figures who were brought to the state for trial.

While those cases had their own political complications, the fate of Guzman, one of the world's most-wanted drug traffickers, is likely to be even more complicated. "There is going to be a lot of diplomatic back and forth," Jimenez said.

Mexico's Interior Secretary Miguel Angel Osorio Chong told The Associated Press on Monday that he has no knowledge of a formal extradition request from the United States, though he has heard expressions of interest. He said the Mexican government will evaluate and analyze any petition that comes in.

There's plenty of precedent for international defendants facing multiple U.S. indictments. Some defendants make appearances in multiple states.

Luis Hernando Gomez-Bustamante, a Colombian drug cartel leader whose operation exported more than 500,000 kilograms of cocaine, was detained by Cuban authorities in 2004, was extradited to the United States and eventually pleaded guilty in both New York - where he was indicted prior to his arrest - and Washington.

Sometimes allegations in different jurisdictions are resolved through a single guilty plea. Eric Justin Toth, a former Washington private school teacher once featured on the FBI's most-wanted list, was captured in Nicaragua last year and returned to face child pornography charges. His guilty plea in Washington also covered a separate pending indictment issued in Maryland.

Since Guzman's arrest, federal prosecutors in both New York City and Chicago have said they want to try the case. Law enforcement authorities whose offices have worked the case the longest, have the strongest set of facts to win a conviction and have the resources to handle a massive criminal case would likely be in the best position, according to lawyers familiar with the process.

Chicago authorities, for instance, contend the city is a major hub for Guzman's Sinaloa drug cartel. Two high-up dealers are already cooperating with prosecutors, and an alleged Sinaloa lieutenant is awaiting trial there.

In San Diego, where Guzman is also under indictment, U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy has built a career on prosecuting the Arellano Felix cartel. Benjamin Arellano Felix was sentenced to 25 years in federal prison in 2012, the highest-profile among many who were extradited from Mexico. Mexico waited nine years to extradite him following his arrest in 2002.

"These kinds of fights between U.S. attorneys' offices are quite common. Often they take a long time to make the decision," said David B. Smith, a former Justice Department narcotics prosecutor who said such discussions often involve political considerations and sometimes even favoritism.

But Robert Feitel, a former prosecutor in the Justice Department's narcotics and dangerous drugs section, said he's skeptical that Guzman will ever be prosecuted in the United States. He said Mexico typically has insisted on affidavits professing firsthand knowledge of the criminal conduct of a defendant wanted for extradition, creating a heavy burden.

Though Mexican authorities would not have to worry about Guzman escaping from prison - he did that in Mexico in 2001 - if they sent him to the U.S., they would certainly be reluctant to turn over such a prominent figure in the country's drug war, Feitel said.

"He's a terrorist in their nation," he said. "Could you imagine if we were to send someone like him to Mexico if the situation was reversed?"

Osorio Chong dismissed concern about Guzman escaping again.

"We think he's being perfectly guarded and watched, and we don't think it's necessary to do anything else," Osorio Chong said. "He will be very isolated. He won't be allowed to continue with his operations."

More From You

*0 / 3000 Character Maximum
Filter by:
gar5952011 March 08 2014 at 10:36 PM

bring him to texas hang him high texas way

Reply Flag as Abusive rate up rate down
night_owl22@msn.com February 25 2014 at 7:26 PM

simple, bullet in the head...done

Reply Flag as Abusive rate up rate down
dnruff February 25 2014 at 7:22 PM

...........Drugs have been entering the U.S . 70 plus years.....he is not alone....so catch the rest.....

Reply Flag as Abusive rate up rate down
bd64kcmo February 25 2014 at 7:20 PM

Here is yet another INCOMPLETE, BADLY WRITTEN article. San Diego and Texas? There were separate reports there were 6 or 7 courts wanting Guzman. There were 4 cities mentioned: New York., Miami, San Diego and Chicago. So far the remainder could be a choice among three or more courts in Texas: Houston, San Antonio, Dallas, Austin? If only one or two, what about any other states?

Reply Flag as Abusive rate up rate down
dnruff February 25 2014 at 7:18 PM

..........Now catch the rest .............

Reply Flag as Abusive rate up rate down
JOANNE February 25 2014 at 6:18 PM

Keep him in Mexico. We don't need to keep him alive for a zillion years here in the USA. We taxpayers spend a fortune each year for all these criminals. Their victims were not that fortunate.

Reply Flag as Abusive rate up rate down
1 reply to JOANNE's comment
bd64kcmo February 25 2014 at 7:08 PM

Keep him in Mexico? We don't need to deal with another escape after bribing guards, ensuing with another bloodbath. Perhaps we can enlist some financial help from some of the Mexican oil revenue, etc.

Reply Flag as Abusive rate up rate down
smthchuck4 February 25 2014 at 6:15 PM

Maybe if WE are lucky we can have him stand before Eric Holder, who may out of the 'kindest of his heart', release him for time served as long as El Chapo won't implicate Holder in the Fast and Furious debacle.

Reply Flag as Abusive rate up rate down
Lawrence February 25 2014 at 5:59 PM

Send him to Texas, They still have the death penelity

Reply Flag as Abusive rate up rate down
1 reply to Lawrence's comment
bd64kcmo February 25 2014 at 7:22 PM

Citing the death penalty would DEFINITELY keep him in Mexico. I say SuperMax

Reply Flag as Abusive rate up rate down
bobbygrayl February 25 2014 at 5:53 PM

put his head on the middle of down town mexico.... why would america pay 5 million to find any dam mexican ?

Reply Flag as Abusive rate up rate down
loeradesigns February 25 2014 at 5:43 PM

their goes my uncle

Reply Flag as Abusive rate up rate down
~~ 2592000


More From Our Partners