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Federal Judge: Potential witness list “El Chapo” trial will remain secret

September 20, 2018  |  Posted by: Michael Falzarano
Federal Judge: Potential witness list “El Chapo” trial will remain secret DEA handout

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The U.S. federal district court judge overseeing the sensational upcoming trial of Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman has denied another request by the kingpin’s lawyers to reveal the list of cooperating witnesses expected to testify.

In a scathing decision written last month, Cogan sided with prosecutors and ruled that the list of cooperating witnesses would remain classified.

The Brooklyn federal judge also blasted the legal defense team representing the nefarious Sinaloa Cartel leader for publically speculating over which witnesses prosecutors intend to testify during the trial.

“When defense counsel speaks publicly about an issue, they not only draw attention to information that, while publicly available, may not have been widely known, but they also suggest to the public that they might have some underlying knowledge on the issue nevertheless,” Cogan wrote in his decision. “And if defense counsel were armed with identifying information about specific cooperating witnesses … the implications of future public discussions and speculation could be serious.”

Attorneys for Guzman objected the ruling, arguing that the secrecy of potential witnesses would inhibit preparations to mount sufficient defense.

“Witnesses are going to be in danger when they are named in this court,” one of Guzman’s lawyers, Eduardo Balarezo, argued at a hearing last week. “At some point, the government is going to have to disclose these people’s names publicly, not just to us.”

Cogan denied the objections and countered that Balarezo’s rationalizing only vindicated fears of prosecutors concerning the security of its witnesses.

“The earlier their identities are revealed, the greater the risk, I am not at all convinced that defense counsel either wants to or would be able to exercise the degree of restraint necessary to protect this information,” Cogan wrote.

Jury selection is scheduled to begin in Brooklyn Federal Court on November 5th. A list of at least 40 cooperating witnesses and informants including high-level cartel operatives are expected to testify against Guzman.

“El Chapo” is charged with leading Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel, a murderous transnational criminal enterprise responsible for trafficking millions of tons of narcotics to the US.

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