NEW YORK (AP) — Mexico’s most notorious drug lord, Joaquín Archivaldo Guzmán Loera, better known as “El Chapo,” was convicted Tuesday of running an industrial-scale smuggling operation after a three-month trial packed with Hollywood-style tales of grisly killings, political payoffs, cocaine hidden in jalapeno cans, jewel-encrusted guns and a naked escape with his mistress through a tunnel.
Guzman listened to a drumbeat of guilty verdicts on drug and conspiracy charges that could put the 61-year-old escape artist behind bars for decades in a maximum-security U.S. prison selected to thwart another one of the breakouts that made him a folk hero in his native country.
A jury whose members’ identities were kept secret reached a verdict after deliberating six days in the expansive case, sorting through what authorities called an “avalanche” of evidence gathered since the late 1980s that Guzman and his murderous Sinaloa drug cartel made billions in profits by smuggling tons of cocaine, heroin, meth and marijuana into the U.S.
As the judge read the verdict, Guzman stared at the jury without expression. When the jurors were discharged, he leaned back in his chair to catch the eye of his wife, who gave him a subtle thumbs-up.
U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan lauded the jury’s meticulous attention to detail and the “remarkable” approach it took toward deliberations. Cogan said it made him “very proud to be an American.”
Evidence showed drugs poured into the U.S. through secret tunnels or hidden in tanker trucks, concealed in the undercarriage of passenger cars and packed in rail cars passing through legitimate points of entry — suggesting that a border wall wouldn’t be much of a worry.
The prosecution’s case against Guzman, a roughly 5½-foot figure whose nickname translates to “Shorty,” included the testimony of several turncoats and other witnesses. Among them were Guzman’s former Sinaloa lieutenants, a computer encryption expert and a Colombian cocaine supplier who underwent extreme plastic surgery to disguise his appearance.
One Sinaloa insider described Mexican workers getting contact highs while packing cocaine into thousands of jalapeno cans — shipments that totaled 25 to 30 tons of cocaine worth $500 million each year. Another testified how Guzman sometimes acted as his own sicario, or hitman, punishing a Sinaloan who dared to work for another cartel by kidnapping him, beating and shooting him and having his men bury the victim while he was still alive, gasping for air.
The defense case lasted just half an hour. Guzman’s lawyers did not deny his crimes as much as argue he was a fall guy for government witnesses who were more evil than he was.
In closing arguments, defense attorney Jeffrey Lichtman urged the jury not to believe government witnesses who “lie, steal, cheat, deal drugs and kill people.”
U.S. Attorney Richard Donoghue called the conviction “a victory for the American people who suffered so much” while the defendant poured poison over the borders. He expected Guzman to get life without parole.
“It is a sentence from which there is no escape and no return,” Donoghue told a news conference outside the courthouse, through snow and sleet.
Lichtman said the defense “fought like complete savages” and will appeal the case. “No matter who the defendant is, you still have to fight to the death.”
He said his client was a positive thinker who “doesn’t give up.”
Upon hearing the verdict, Guzman was “as cool as a cucumber,” Lichtman added. “Honest to god, we were more upset than he was.”
Deliberations were complicated by the trial’s vast scope. Jurors were tasked with making 53 decisions about whether prosecutors have proven different elements of the case.
The trial cast a harsh glare on the corruption that allowed the cartel to flourish. Colombian trafficker Alex Cifuentes caused a stir by testifying that former Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto took a $100 million bribe from Guzman. Peña Nieto denied it, but the allegation fit a theme: politicians, army commanders, police and prosecutors, all on the take.
The tension at times was cut by some of the trial’s sideshows, such as the sight of Guzman and his wife, Emma Coronel Aispuro, showing up in matching burgundy velvet blazers in a gesture of solidarity. Another day, a Chapo-size actor who played the kingpin in the TV series “Narcos: Mexico” came to watch, telling reporters that seeing the defendant flash him a smile was “surreal.”
While the trial was dominated by Guzman’s persona as a near-mythical outlaw who carried a diamond-encrusted handgun and stayed one step ahead of the law, the jury never heard from Guzman himself, except when he told the judge he wouldn’t testify.
But his sing-songy voice filled the courtroom, thanks to recordings of intercepted phone calls. “Amigo!” he said to a cartel distributor in Chicago. “Here at your service.”
One of the trial’s most memorable tales came from girlfriend Lucero Guadalupe Sanchez Lopez, who testified she was in bed in a safe house with an on-the-run Guzman in 2014 when Mexican marines started breaking down his door. She said Guzman led her to a trap door beneath a bathtub that opened up to a tunnel that allowed them to escape.
Asked what he was wearing, she replied: “He was naked. He took off running. He left us behind.”
The defendant had previously escaped from jail by hiding in a laundry bin in 2001. He then got an escort from crooked police officers into Mexico City before retreating to one of his many mountainside hideaways. In 2014, he pulled off another jail break, escaping through a mile-long lighted tunnel on a motorcycle on rails.
Even when Guzman was recaptured in 2016 before his extradition to the United States, he was plotting another escape, prosecutor Andrea Goldbarg said in closing arguments.
“Why? Because he is guilty and he never wanted to be in a position where he would have to answer for his crimes,” she told the jury. “He wanted to avoid sitting right there. In front of you.”
Parents of Caliyah McNabb Found Guilty, Sentenced In 14-Day-Old Daughter’s Murder
The parents of a 14-day-old Georgia baby were found guilty on Tuesday in connection with the little girl’s death. Caliyah McNabb suffered horrific injuries after her father beat her in the head and hid her tiny body in the woods, around 900 feet from her home.
“She was a little angel,” District Attorney Layla Zon said during her closing arguments inside a Newton County courtroom Tuesday afternoon. “She was a gift to Cortney Bell and Christopher McNabb.”
Christopher McNabb, the baby’s father, was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole on charges of malice murder, aggravated assault, and other related charges. Cortney Bell, the baby’s mother, was sentenced to 30 years in prison, with the possibility of parole in 15 years, on charges of second-degree murder, child deprivation, and child cruelty.
McNabb grew angry after the guilty verdict, which only took the jury around an hour to decide. Judge John Ott ordered him out of the courtroom. When he returned for sentencing, McNabb claimed he was innocent and planned to appeal.
“The whole thing was a set-up,” McNabb hissed, clearly upset with the verdict. “I was beat as a child and I don’t agree with this at all. I don’t agree with this at all. I would never do this.”
Ott asked McNabb what type of sentence he would give the person responsible for Caliyah’s death. McNabb replied that the guilty party should be thrown “under the jail.” With that, Ott sentenced McNabb to life without parole.
Bell shed tears during sentencing as she also claimed innocence. Ott told Bell that she allowed a “rattlesnake into her home” by putting McNabb before her children and allowing violence and drugs into her children’s lives.
“You chose meth and McNabb over a baby,” Ott said. “Like most criminals, you have a version of what a good mama is that is so far from the norm.”
Baby Caliyah’s Short Life
As CrimeOnline previously reported, in October 2017, the Newton County Medical Examiner’s Office reported that Caliyah died from blunt force trauma to the head. The injuries were gruesome. The infant was beaten in so badly that her baby teeth, which had not yet developed, stuck out through her gums.
The baby also suffered a blow so severe to her head that her skull was “seriously disfigured and damaged beyond repair.” McNabb caused the injuries, then in a panic, wrapped the baby in a blanket and one of his t-shirts, and put her into a Nike drawstring bag. He then took Caliyah into the woods behind his trailer home in Covington and buried her in a depressed area under a log.
It’s unclear exactly what caused the horrific beating, but according to testimony by Bell’s cousin, Gerald Weatherford, both Bell and McNabb smoked meth with him on October 7, 2017, the night before Caliyah disappeared.
“Cortney Bell was too busy smoking methamphetamine to protect her child,” Assistant District Attorney Alex Stone said.
During testimony last week, Bell’s cousin, Megan Sorrells, said Bell was being abused at home during the time Caliyah vanished. She also testified that McNabb and Bell were constantly fighting. Sorrells said Bell never told her about the abuse, but as a domestic abuse victim herself, she could already tell.
“She always had bruises on her,” Sorrells said of Bell. “I didn’t really have to ask many questions. I could tell.”
Court testimony also indicated that little Caliyah wasn’t around her parents much in the mere 14 days she was alive. After spending four days in the hospital after birth, McNabb and Bell passed the baby off to family members multiple times. Caliyah stayed several days with her grandfather, Tim Bell.
Tim testified that he returned the child home with milk and clean diapers in early October, and told his daughter, Bell, to clean up her filthy trailer home. The following day, Caliyah was dead.
Although Bell wasn’t accused of physically harming the baby, by allowing Caliyah to live in a dangerous environment while doing nothing to protect her, makes her culpable of murder. Ott explained to Bell that her second-degree murder charge meant that irrespective of malice, while she was in the commission of neglecting her baby, she helped caused her death.
Zon added that Caliyah’s best days were the days she stayed in the hospital after birth, and that the baby was “doomed” as soon as she was taken home.
“That child was doomed the moment they left that hospital. They took pure innocence and brought that child into a life of hell.”
(Reporting by CrimeOnline)
Actress Felicity Huffman Pleads Guilty In College Admissions Scheme
BOSTON (AP) — “Desperate Housewives” star Felicity Huffman has pleaded guilty to participating in the college admissions cheating scheme.
The 56-year-old actress entered the plea Monday to a charge of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud.
Huffman stood with her hands clasped in front of her and responded, “Yes, your honor,” when asked whether she understood the charges. Her brother watched from the front row. Her husband, actor William H. Macy, didn’t attend.
Sentencing is set for Sept. 13. Prosecutors said they would recommend four months in prison.
She was arrested in March along with dozens of other prominent parents, athletic coaches and others implicated in the scandal. She was charged with paying $15,000 to have a proctor boost her older daughter’s SAT score.
She has apologized and says she will accept the consequences.
‘Anna Delvey,’ Fake Heiress Who Swindled N.Y.’s Elite, Is Sentenced to 4 to 12 Years in Prison
Anna Sorokin, who pretended to be a German heiress, bilked Manhattan hotels, banks and a private jet operator.
Anna Sorokin, the fake German heiress who swindled her way into Manhattan’s elite party circles, was sentenced on Thursday to four to 12 years in prison for bilking hotels, banks and a private jet operator out of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The sentencing capped a case of a young grifter who spun her tale with brazen flair. Ms. Sorokin wore designer clothes, lived in boutique hotels, dined in expensive restaurants and lured investors for a $40 million private club — all without a penny to her name.
She has been held on Rikers Island since October 2017. Ms. Sorokin, 28, was convicted last month of most of the charges against her.
Her lawyer, Todd Spodek, said during that trial that Ms. Sorokin was simply an enterprising business-minded woman eager to make it in the big city.
But jurors agreed with prosecutors that her gilt-edged life was an elaborate ruse financed by lies.
In addition to the prison sentence, Ms. Sorokin was fined $24,000 and ordered to pay restitution of about $199,000.
“I apologize for the mistakes I made,” she said at the sentencing.
Ms. Sorokin stiffed hotels, persuaded a bank employee to give her a $100,000 line of credit, swayed a private jet company to let her fly on credit, and tried to secure a $25 million loan from a hedge fund. In all, she stole about $213,000 worth of money and services.
Still, the jury found her not guilty of the most serious offense — faking records in an attempt to obtain a $22 million loan. She was also acquitted of stealing from a friend who said Ms. Sorokin duped her into covering the cost of a $60,000 vacation to Morocco.
To many friends, there was every reason to believe that Ms. Sorokin was a wealthy German heiress named Anna Delvey with so much money that she frequently doled out $100 tips and flew on a private jet to Berkshire Hathaway’s annual investment conference.
But Kaegan Mays-Williams, a prosecutor, said during the trial that Ms. Sorokin’s only goal was to “put herself in the best position to take money” from the wealthy so that she could “live the fantasy of an extravagant lifestyle.”
Mr. Spodek said people believed what they wanted about Ms. Sorokin. She was enabled, he said, by a system “seduced by glamour and glitz.” She intended to pay back her creditors, he said.
“Through her sheer ingenuity, she created the life that she wanted for herself,” he said. “Anna was not content with being a spectator, but wanted to be a participant.”
(Reporting by New York Times)
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