A federal judge denied Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán's multifaceted application for more comfortable prison conditions Monday, citing prosecutors' suggestions that the request could be part of a ploy to escape from prison.
Earlier this month, Guzmán's defense team asked for several things on the 61-year-old's behalf, including a set of earplugs to alleviate pain and help him sleep, at least two hours of outdoor exercise per week, and access to the general population commissary.
Federal prosecutors opposed each request and, Monday, US District Judge Brian Cogan officially denied them all.
In February, federal prosecutors secured a conviction against the Sinaloa Cartel boss for running the drug trafficking enterprise. Guzmán faces multiple life sentences; he will be sentenced in federal court June 25.
For two and a half years, Guzmán has not been permitted to have unmonitored phone calls or receive mail, Jeffrey Lichtman, one of his lawyers, told The Post. His defense team called the 27-month period in solitary confinement "cruel and unusual punishment," in violation of the Eighth Amendment.
But the Mexican drug kingpin's motion has been heavily scrutinized because of his past: Guzmán has escaped from two maximum-security Mexican prisons - in 2001, with the assistance of prison guards and, in 2015, through a tunnel underneath the shower in his jail cell.
"An escape via rooftop, using a helicopter, or any related means would be elementary by comparison," the prosecutors wrote to the court. Adding to the government's concern was the unsuccessful attempted jail break in 1981, where an inmate arranged a helicopter escape from the recreation area of Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York, the same Lower Manhattan prison housing Guzmán.
Lichtman called the prosecution's allegations "literally hysterical."
The high-profile prisoner has had no prison infractions since his arrest, Lichtman said, "yet now, by simply asking for some bottled water and some fresh air he is accused of plotting a daring prison escape despite zero supporting evidence."
But Cogan disagreed, noting that Guzmán's "exemplary" behaviour was "a direct consequence of the strict conditions of confinement in which he finds himself. His continued good behaviour is not a reason to modify them, it is a reason to keep them in place."
In his order, the Brooklyn judge wrote that Guzmán was originally placed under these confinement conditions "to further the legitimate Government objective of preventing him from escaping from prison or directing any attacks on individuals who were cooperating with the Government."
The prison restrictions were "tailored to his specific history" - which, Cogan said, made it "plausible that [the] defendant could try to recreate such an escape attempt if the opportunity presented itself."
Cogan also denied Guzmán's request for access to the general population commissary for "security reasons." Inmates, he wrote, can "weaponize" many of the available items.
He similarly quashed the request for earplugs, calling it "illogical."
Throughout the trial, Guzmán complained about having to wear court-issued earphones.
"If earphones exacerbated his ear condition during trial, I do not see how using earplugs will help the condition now," Cogan wrote.
The Washington Post