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U.S. Prosecutors in Brooklyn secretly drop murder charges against ‘El Chapo’

May 21, 2016  |  Posted by: JammedUp Staff
U.S. Prosecutors in Brooklyn secretly drop murder charges against ‘El Chapo’

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As authorities in the United States prepare for the imminent extradition of Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, the infamous leader of the powerful Sinaloa cartel, U.S. prosecutors, who were hell-bent on prosecuting the drug lord for several brutal killings in Mexico, have seemed to have changed their minds without telling anybody.

U.K. newspaper The Guardian is reporting that Justice Department officials have quietly moved to drop murder charges in the case filed against him out of Brooklyn’s Eastern District Court in New York.

In a landmark case, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn planned to prosecute ‘El Chapo’ for the assassination of a dozen people including members of Mexican Federal police and military along with rival cartel members and local politicians, all committed inside of Mexico.

The indictment, which had detailed twelve specific murders Guzman stands accused of ordering as the notorious leader of the Sinaloa cartel, have now been removed from the list of charges by New York federal prosecutors without making any official announcement, The Guardian reported.

Legal experts say the move could make the extradition process smoother and securing a conviction easier.

It also helps avoid any disputes over the jurisdiction of US courts to rule on crimes committed in a foreign country.

The move by U.S authorities comes amid Friday’s announcement by Mexico’s Foreign Affairs Ministry that it had approved Guzman’s extradition to the US, where he faces charges in several jurisdictions including New York, California, Texas, Illinois, and Miami.

The agency greenlighted extradition requests from the Federal District Court in San Diego, California and Texas Federal District Court in El Paso, where he faces charges of murder, drug trafficking, along with weapons violations.As JammedUp reported on May 11th, law enforcement sources indicated Brooklyn would be Guzman’s likely destination which could happen sometime in June or July.

As JammedUp reported on May 11th, law enforcement sources indicated Brooklyn would be Guzman’s likely destination which could happen sometime in June or July.

U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch filed charges in New York in Sept. 2014, securing a grand jury indictment against Joaquín Guzmán when she was still serving as the U.S. Attorney for Brooklyn’s Eastern District.

The indictment accuses ‘El Chapo’ and his partner Ismael ‘El Mayo’ Zambada with carrying out the twelve murders in Mexico between 2000 through 2008, in addition to multiple murder conspiracies against rival cartel figures and two attempted murders.

Among the killings prosecutors have accused Guzman of taking part in includes the April 2008 execution of Roberto Velasco Bravo, Mexico’s director of investigation for organized crime, in Mexico City. Also the 2005 murders of six “John Does”, whose identities have been kept secret from the public but were disclosed to the grand jury.

However, a new superseding indictment, filed last week in Brooklyn now only lists one paragraph that mentions a murder conspiracy committed by Guzman and Zambada against unspecified “persons who posed a threat to the Sinaloa cartel.”

Nellin McIntosh, a spokeswoman for the US attorney’s office in Brooklyn, confirmed there was no public announcement of the new indictment but refused comment when he asked if it meant Guzman wouldn’t face murder charges.

During Friday’s announcement, Mexican foreign ministry’s said, “The US government had provided sufficient assurances that the death penalty shall not apply if Mr. Guzmán Loera were extradited and tried in that country.”

Mexico abolished the death penalty and wouldn’t extradite Guzman if he faced the possibility of the capital punishment.

Kendall Coffey, a former US attorney in Miami, who handled major drugs cases said it made sense for prosecutors to “adjust the indictment.”

“Many life sentences can be achieved on the narcotics counts,” Coffey said.

Although Friday’s ruling by the Mexican government relates to charges in California and Texas, former prosecutors say Guzmán could end up in any one of the jurisdictions where he faces indictments, including Brooklyn.

“It is a calculus that involves a lot of different issues, but what it boils down to at the end of the day is: who’s got the best charges and who’s got the best evidence. It’s as simple as that,” said Theresa Van Vliet, former chief of narcotics at the Justice Department

According to the Guardian, the US attorney for the Federal District Court in Miami, where Guzmán also faces charges has joined the Brooklyn case as special counsel, indicating that the two teams are working together in a combined effort.

Prosecutors previously argued that although the murders occurred in Mexico, Guzman could still be prosecuted in Brooklyn because they took place in the “extraterritorial jurisdiction of the United States.”

Extraterritorial Jurisdiction is a statute that gives the U.S. government the ability to exercise authority beyond its borders, which is often used to punish foreign nationals for crimes that would include killing Americans, particularly US government officials on foreign soil.

That same phrase was repeatedly used in the 2014 indictment to describe the locations where Guzmán’s alleged drug trafficking offenses took place.

However, the use of “extraterritorial jurisdiction” of the United States.” is now stricken from the new superseding indictment against Joaquin Guzmán.

McIntosh also refused to comment when asked if Justice Dept. officials now intend only to prosecute Guzmán for alleged crimes committed on US soil.

The use of “extraterritorial jurisdiction” in cases involving murders where both the suspects and victims were foreign nationals is unprecedented.

Anthony Colangelo, a professor at Southern Methodist University, said prosecuting the drug lord would be “problematic for some reasons” beginning with the principle that “extraterritorial jurisdiction” is presumed not to apply to a US law unless specified in the relevant statute.

“And constitutionally, it’s just not clear to me what would authorize Congress to enact a law that applies to a foreign defendant and a foreign victim in an international location,” said Colangelo.

The new charges in the superseding indictment against Guzmán clearly indicate that prosecutors will instead focus on proving that Guzmán committed crimes related to the trafficking of illegal drugs and money laundering that took place in the US.

Additionally, newly added lines repeat the specified claims that narcotics were smuggled “into the United States” by various means including by “boats, submarine, planes or by trucks” and that operatives funneled the illicit cash “back to Mexico.”

Former chief of narcotics at the Justice Department, Van Vliet, said it made logical sense that Mexican officials would prefer the new set of charges.

According to Colangelo, the new offenses helps prevent complications that could compromise a conviction.

“If they botched it up by including allegations that led to statutory or constitutional problems and an acquittal, he couldn’t be prosecuted again because of the principle of double jeopardy, talk about killing your career as a prosecutor,” Colangelo told the Guardian.

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