NEW YORK — Joaquín Archivaldo Guzmán Loera — the notorious drug lord known as “El Chapo” whose dramatic prison escapes fed his legend as an untouchable kingpin running the world’s largest narcotics trafficking group — was sentenced Wednesday to life in prison.
Before the sentence was imposed, Guzmán, 62, turned to look at his family in the packed courtroom, saluted them, tapped his heart and then angrily denounced his treatment.
“When extradited, I expected to have a fair trial where justice was blind and my fame would not be a factor, but what happened was actually the opposite,” he said before the sentence was imposed. “The government of the United States will send me to a prison where my name will never be heard again. I will take this opportunity to say there was no justice here.”
While the Justice Department has decapitated the powerful Mexican organized crime group, such cartels have proven remarkably resilient to the arrest of their leaders, and current and former U.S. law enforcement officials say that corruption within the Mexican government remains a troubling obstacle.
Speaking through an interpreter and reading from prepared remarks, Guzmán said the harsh terms of his confinement are “psychological, emotional, mental torture, 24 hours a day.”
Guzmán, who personally ordered people to be tortured and murdered while he oversaw the bloodthirsty Sinaloa Cartel, said his prison conditions showed a “lack of respect for human dignity” and blamed the judge for his conviction.
“The U.S. is not better than any other corrupt country,” Guzmán said.
In sentencing him to spend the rest of his life in prison, U.S. District Court Judge Brian Cogan said the law gave him no discretion to impose a lighter sentence, and that the drug lord did not deserve leniency.
“The overwhelming evil is so severe,” Cogan said.
Federal sentencing laws made it a foregone conclusion that Guzmán would receive multiple life sentences, and his lawyer Jeffrey Lichtman spent little time asking the judge for mercy.
“History will treat this verdict with skepticism,” said Lichtman. “What occurred here did not uphold an appearance of justice.”
Guzmán was convicted in February after a three-month trial that detailed his rise to power in Mexico, where his cartel moved billions of dollars’ worth of heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine and marijuana from Mexico to the U.S.