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NEW YORK (AP) — The Mexican drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman has been sentenced to life behind bars in a U.S. prison, a humbling end for a drug lord notorious for his ability to kill, bribe or tunnel his way out of trouble.
A federal judge in Brooklyn handed down the sentence Wednesday, five months after Guzman’s conviction in an epic drug-trafficking case.
The 62-year-old drug lord, who had been protected in Mexico by an army of gangsters and an elaborate corruption operation, was brought to the U.S. to stand trial after he twice escaped from Mexican prisons.
Before he was sentenced, Guzman complained about the conditions of his confinement and told the judge he was denied a fair trial. He said U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan failed to thoroughly investigate claims of juror misconduct.
“My case was stained and you denied me a fair trial when the whole world was watching,” Guzman said in court through an interpreter. “When I was extradited to the United States, I expected to have a fair trial, but what happened was exactly the opposite.”
The sentence— life plus 30 years— was pre-ordained. The guilty verdict in February at Guzman’s 11-week trial triggered a mandatory sentence of life without parole . Cogan also ordered Guzman to pay $12.6 billion in ill-gotten proceeds— money his drug-trafficking organization made distributing cocaine and other drugs around the United States.
The evidence showed that under Guzman’s orders, the Sinaloa cartel was responsible for smuggling mountains of cocaine and other drugs into the United States during his 25-year reign, prosecutors said in court papers re-capping the trial. They also said his “army of sicarios” was under orders to kidnap, torture and murder anyone who got in his way.
The defense argued he was framed by other traffickers who became government witnesses so they could get breaks in their own cases.
Guzman has been largely cut off from the outside world since his extradition in 2017 and his remarks in the courtroom Wednesday could be the last time the public hears from him. Guzman thanked his family for giving him “the strength to bare this torture that I have been under for the past 30 months.”
Wary of his history of escaping from Mexican prisons, U.S. authorities have kept him in solitary confinement in an ultra-secure unit at a Manhattan jail and under close guard at his appearances at the Brooklyn courthouse where his case unfolded.