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Judge: Prison officials can’t monitor legal visits of ‘El Chapo’ while he remains in solitary confinement

May 5, 2017  |  Posted by: Francesca Falzarano
Judge: Prison officials can’t monitor legal visits of ‘El Chapo’ while he remains in solitary confinement

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Mexican drug kingpin Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman will remain in solitary confinement — but jail administrators should not be controlling his legal visits and reporting back to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, a judge in Brooklyn federal court ordered on Thursday.

Judge Brian Cogan said the single cell and strict regulations on Guzman were hardships that ordinary members of the corrections population didn’t have to bear.

However, Cogan said the confinements at the Metropolitan Correctional Center were justified, given that the head of a notorious drug cartel made two brazen escapes from Mexican prisons.

“The government has articulated legitimate objectives of preventing the defendant from running the cartel from prison, coordinating an escape from prison, or directing an attack on individuals that he may believe are cooperating with the Government,” Cogan stated, adding that the feds’ interests were based on Guzman’s prior actions.

Joaquín ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán remains at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Lower Manhattan, awaiting trial

According to the New York Times, the judge did rule that some tweaks should be implemented to assist Guzman — like being able to talk to his wife.

Since his extradition in January, Guzman’s been prohibited from communicating with Emma Coronel Aispuro. However, the judge said that’s an issue because she can help Guzman access the funds to hire attorneys.

Currently, he has attorneys appointed to him, but by the prosecution count in April, there had been 16 lawyers who visited Guzman to talk about possible representation.

Cogan added that the rules had to be altered so the 60-year-old drug lord could send pre-screened messages to his wife — which will be subject to review by the government — regarding the “retention of private counsel, payment of counsel, and of a personal nature.”

A police convoy escorts Guzman back to prison after his court appearance

In another rule alteration, Guzman is also permitted to send pre-screened messages to other relatives about obtaining lawyers and the cash to hire them.

The judge also made it clear that corrections officers and prosecutors couldn’t be discussing what they believe Guzman and his legal team were up to during visits.

“Whether the defendant is having the paper read or the material read to him, the (Metropolitan Correctional Center) should not be keeping tabs on what occurs during his visits and reporting back to the U.S. Attorney’s Office,” the judge stated.

Cogan’s decision occurred a day before the next scheduled court date in the drug trafficking case. Guzman is anticipated to make the trip from the Lower Manhattan jail to Cogan’s courtroom.

‘El Chapo’ was extradited to New York back on January 19th

In the lead up to the decision, there was a back-and-forth between prosecutors and Guzman’s appointed lawyers at the Federal Defenders of New York.

The defense argued that Guzman faced the severest rules of anyone now behind bars in the U.S., while the solitary confinement and close monitoring were impacting Guzman’s sanity and rights. Prosecutors said they were acting fairly considering the situation.

Both sides disputed about things like the size of Guzman’s cell and whether he was experiencing auditory hallucinations.

“No issues present constitutional concerns and the court is not going to micro-manage the (Bureau of Prisons),” Cogan added.

The judge also denied a defense request to have the human rights group Amnesty International investigate Guzman’s prison conditions.

Guzman’s legal team argued they still believe their client’s conditions are “untenable, especially over the time it will take for the case to go to trial.”

Their client hasn’t been found guilty of any crimes, they contended, “and we will fight for his right to fair and humane treatment while he awaits his chance to confront the government’s allegations in court.”

The defense explained that they were “extremely disappointed” that ‘El Chapo’ and his wife still weren’t allowed to see or communicate with each other.

However, the legal team also explained that they were pleased Cogan “recognized the prosecution team’s invasions into Guzman’s conversations with his attorneys are illegitimate and barred them from speaking with jail guards regarding Guzman’s legal visits.”

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