Drug kingpin Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzmán found guilty of funneling tons of narcotics into the U.S.

Guzmán, 61, now faces life in prison.

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By Elisha Fieldstadt and Tom Winter

The Mexican drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzmán was found guilty Tuesday of crimes spanning more than a quarter of a century, during which prosecutors said he smuggled more than 200 tons of cocaine into the United States.

After an almost three-month trial and six days of deliberations, a New York jury found the Sinaloa cartel leader guilty on each of the 10 charges he was tried on, including engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise and multiple counts of distributing large amounts of narcotics internationally.

Guzmán, 61, now faces life in prison. The U.S. had agreed not to seek the death penalty while trying to extradite him from Mexico, which has abolished capital punishment. He is due to be sentenced June 25.

Richard Donoghue, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said he expected Guzmán to be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. "It is a sentence from which there is no escape and no return," he said.

"His conviction is a victory for the American people who have suffered so long and so much while Guzman made billions pouring poison over our southern border," Donoghue added. "This conviction is a victory for the Mexican people, who have lost more than 100,000 lives in drug-related violence."

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders used the verdict as an opportunity to tout the presidents’ border wall.

When the jurors filed into the courtroom with a verdict Tuesday, they all looked down as Guzmán scanned their faces.

After the verdict was read, Guzmán shook hands with his attorneys. As he exited the courtroom, he put his hand on his heart and nodded to his wife, Emma Coronel Aispuro.

Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzmán and his wife, Emma Coronel, in this courtroom sketch in Brooklyn federal court in New York City, on Feb. 12, 2019.Christine Cornell

U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan lauded the seven women and five men on the jury, saying that in 13 years on the bench, he hadn't seen a jury pay so much attention to detail, and how their diligence made him "very proud to be an American."

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Jeffrey Lichtman, one of Guzmán's attorneys, said his client was shockingly upbeat after the verdict. "He was bringing our spirits up, which was surprising," Lichtman said. "This is a positive guy."

Lichtman said the defense team would appeal.

"The appeal will be fought just as this trial was fought," he said. "This was balls to the wall, and that’s how we fight cases."

"We fought like complete savages and left it all on the battlefield for Joaquin Guzmán," Lichtman said, adding that representing Guzmán was "an absolute honor and a pleasure."

"If you can't represent Joaquin Guzman as defense lawyer, you shouldn't be representing anyone," he said.

More than 56 prosecution witnesses were called to the stand at the heavily secured federal courthouse in Brooklyn over the course of 35 days.

The jury listened to Hollywood-like tales of brutal murders of cartel enemies, political payoffs, elaborate schemes to traffic drugs, two brazen escapes that almost became three, and even a love triangle.

The jury heard of how Guzmán streamlined the cartel's methods of smuggling cocaine, heroin, meth and marijuana into the U.S. — in jalapeño cans, tightly wrapped in waterproof packages, or concealed in rail cars passing through legal points of entry and through an elaborate maze of tunnels at the border.

In grueling testimony, they heard of how he punished a man for working for another cartel by burning him with a clothing iron, leaving him in a henhouse for days, and then shooting him before burying him alive.

And one witness alleged that Guzmán paid a $100 million bribe to former Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, which Nieto denied.

“I supply more heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana than anybody else in the world. I have a fleet of submarines, airplanes, trucks and boats,” Guzmán said during a Rolling Stone interview with actor Sean Penn before his last arrest in Mexico in January 2016.

The drug lord had escaped prison in Mexico twice, once in 2001 and once by digging a mile-long tunnel under his prison cell in 2015.

He was recaptured shortly after his interview with Penn, which investigators said helped them track Guzmán down after intercepting phone records between the two and Mexican actress Kate del Castillo, who wanted to make a movie about Guzmán’s life.

In closing arguments, prosecutors told the jury that an "avalanche of evidence" proved that Guzmán lorded over a murderous drug empire. Presenting that evidence took 11 weeks.

Meanwhile, the defense rested after 30 minutes. They countered that the government's case was only held up by the testimony of criminals who "lie, steal, cheat, deal drugs and kill people" for a living.

Guzmán addressed the courtroom only once during the trial, telling the judge he was electing not to testify in his own defense.

"Señor judge, me and my attorneys have spoken about this," Guzmán said, "and I will reserve."

Guzmán was convicted of all 10 counts:

  • Engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise
  • International cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and marijuana manufacture and distribution conspiracy
  • Cocaine importation conspiracy
  • Cocaine distribution conspiracy
  • International distribution of cocaine
  • International distribution of cocaine
  • International distribution of cocaine
  • International distribution of cocaine
  • Use of firearms
  • Conspiracy to launder narcotics proceeds

CORRECTION (Feb. 12, 2019, 4:20 p.m. ET): A previous version of this article misspelled the last name of the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York. He is Richard Donoghue, not Donoughue.

Emily Berk contributed.