El Chapo verdict: Jurors reach verdict in case of notorious drug lord

/ CBS/AP

CBSN

New York — After nearly three months of testimony and six days of deliberation about a vast drug-smuggling conspiracy steeped in violence, a jury has reached a verdict in the criminal conspiracy and drug trafficking trial of infamous Mexican drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman.

The jurors didn't immediately read their verdict Tuesday afternoon.

The jury heard extensive testimony about Guzman's rise to power as the head of the Sinaloa cartel in the high-profile trial before reaching the verdict Tuesday. Prosecutors said he's responsible for smuggling at least 200 tons of cocaine into the United States and a wave of killings in turf wars with other cartels.

Before jury deliberations began Feb. 4, the judge instructed jurors to review 10 criminal counts against Guzman. Jurors have been going through a verdict form that asks them to make 53 decisions about whether prosecutors have proven various elements of the 10-count indictment.

Many are related to the top count, accusing him of running a continuing criminal enterprise.

Jurors could find Guzman guilty of only some of those violations and still convict him of crimes serious enough to put him in prison for decades. He faces life in prison.

The charges:

Guzman, 61, is notorious for escaping prison twice in Mexico. In closing arguments, prosecutor Andrea Goldbarg said he was plotting yet another prison break when was he was sent in 2017 to the U.S., where he's been held in solitary confinement ever since.

The defendant wanted to escape "because he is guilty and he never wanted to be in a position where he would have to answer for his crimes," Goldbarg said. "He wanted to avoid sitting right there. In front of you."

Goldbarg urged jurors to use "common sense" and said an "avalanche of evidence" shows Guzman is guilty.

"He's responsible for any acts committed by the cartel," Goldbarg said. "It was his orders, his actions."

Guzman's attorneys said their client denies the allegations.

New documents allege horrific crimes by El Chapo

The defense claims Guzman's role has been exaggerated by cooperating witnesses who are seeking leniency in their own cases. In his closing, defense attorney Jeffrey Lichtman assailed the case as a "fantasy" and urged the jury not to believe cooperators who "lie, steal, cheat, deal drugs and kill people" for a living.

The defense told the jury they "don't need to give in to the myth of El Chapo."

Last month, newly unsealed court papers revealed disturbing allegations not heard by the jury — that Guzman had sex with girls as young as 13. A Colombian drug trafficker told investigators the kingpin paid $5,000 to have the girls brought to him and sometimes drugged and raped them. "These allegations are so reprehensible," said CBS News legal analyst Rikki Klieman, but evidence about them was not included in the trial.

The start of the proceedings last week was briefly delayed after two jurors indicted to the judge they were aware of reports about the alleged sex crimes. He questioned both behind closed doors before allowing them to remain on the jury.

The unsealing of the documents came at the request of The New York Times and Vice News. U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan had ordered prosecutors to review the material — originally sealed because it was deemed unrelated to the drug charges — and make portions of it public within four days of the government resting its case against Guzman.

First published on February 12, 2019

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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