The Second Circuit Court of Appeals confirms what everyone already knew – El Chapo is in fact a drug lord

New York



El Chapo’s convictions are upheld by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals According to the Second Circuit’s decision in United States v. Beltran-Leyva (Guzman Loera), No. 19-2239 (2d Cir. 2022), Joaquin Archivaldo Guzman Loera (more commonly known as “El Chapo”) also had 11 other aliases including El Rapido, Shorty, El Señor, and Nana. More substantively important (but less helpful for trivia knowledge), in July 2019 El Chapo was convicted of the following by a jury of in the District Court for the Eastern District of New York: conducting a continuing criminal enterprise (“CCE”); drug trafficking conspiracies; unlawful use of a firearm; and, a money-laundering conspiracy. He was sentenced to five concurrent terms of life imprisonment for the CCE and narcotics trafficking violations, 30 years consecutively for the firearms violation, and was ordered to forfeit more than $12 billion (at 3).El Chapo appealed the decision on no less than ten grounds of appeal. The Court concluded that none of El Chapo’s grounds of appeal had merit and affirmed the lower court’s decision (at 4).One of his grounds of appeal was that his Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights to present a defense and to have the effective assistance of counsel had been violated by the conditions of his pretrial detention. El Chapo argued that the conditions of his pretrial detention were so harsh that they deprived him of a meaningful opportunity to participate in his own defense and to receive a fair trial (at 12). The Court acknowledged that the US Attorney General had determined that El Chapo was a substantial threat to others and a flight risk. As a result, the Attorney General implemented several highly restrictive special administrative procedures during his detention. The Court noted that the basis for the Attorney General’s characterization of El Chapo included El Chapo’s history of escaping from Mexican prisons, having prospective witnesses murdered, bribing prison officials, and using third parties to continue to manage the Sinaloa Cartel from prison (at 12).Because El Chapo’s constitutional objection to his solitary confinement was predicated on his Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights (to present a defense and to receive a fair trial), the Court applied the Turner factors to determine whether the conditions in the SHU were reasonably related to legitimate penological objectives or whether they represented an exaggerated response to those concerns. The Court noted that where the prison regulation at issue is imposed upon a pretrial detainee, as opposed to a convicted prisoner, the restriction must be regulatory and not punitive (at 16).The Court held that each Turner factor supported the government’s legitimate security concerns. First, Court held that the government demonstrated a sufficient connection between its security concerns and El Chapo’s segregation from the general prison population. The Court ruled that El Chapo’s history of bribing prison officials, harming cooperative witnesses, escaping from prison, and continuing to manage his illegal enterprise from jail were valid bases for the government to seek his segregation from the general population (at 17).Next, the Court held that the government was entitled to deem the only alternative to El Chapo’s solitary confinement―release into the general prison population―unacceptable. The government’s security concerns stemmed primarily from El Chapo’s likely behavior (based on his past actions) if he were able to interact with others (at 17-18). Although the conditions of El Chapo’s pretrial confinement were harsh, the Court held that they did not provide a basis for disturbing his conviction (at 18).

April 14, 2022
United States v. Beltran-Leyva (Guzman Loera), No. 19-2239 (2d Cir. 2022)
Federal Courts (2nd Circuit)