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Feds in El Chapo case maintain private talks with judge are to protect witnesses

June 9, 2017  |  Posted by: Francesca Falzarano
Feds in El Chapo case maintain private talks with judge are to protect witnesses

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Attorneys for Mexican drug lord Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman are getting cut out from hearing particular information given to the judge, but the government argues in court documents that there is a good reason for that.

Federal prosecutors in Brooklyn indicated that their four, direct-line discussions with Judge Brian Cogan were all warranted because they are protecting government witnesses and are guarding ongoing investigations using “sensitive” law enforcement methods.

The Tuesday filing hits back at Guzman’s attorneys, who criticized that the so-called “ex parte” submissions were hurting the drug lord’s right to a fair, public trial. The defense team is looking to see what the government’s been discussing with Cogan, or at least get summarized versions of the filings.

Prosecutors said that is not happening because of who exactly the defense is representing, the New York Daily News reported.

A courtroom sketch shows defense attorneys Michael Schneider, Michelle Gelernt and their client Joaquin (El Chapo) Guzman. (JANE ROSENBERG/REUTERS)

The 60-year-old kingpin broke out of Mexican prisons on two occasions and managed to oversee the Sinaloa Cartel even when he was behind bars. El Chapo also has a “demonstrated history” of using third parties to quiet cooperating witnesses, they argued.

Prosecutors said redacted summaries could discuss information that seemed simple to the defense attorneys, who have been working on the case for months. However, that same knowledge could help Guzman, “with his decades-long knowledge of his criminal organization,” figure out who the government sources are.

“The only way to guard against the concern that the defense counsel may disclose the identity of the witnesses is to preclude disclosure of information entirely,” the filing stated.

The defense team protested that they can’t adequately represent Guzman if they don’t know information about what prosecutors were telling Cogan.

Prosecutors said Guzman’s attorneys weren’t shadow boxing. Every time they sent something directly to Cogan, they said they also filed public document giving Guzman’s attorneys the basis of what they are telling the judge.

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