Infamous Mexican drug kingpin Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzmán, whose prison escapes made him an "outlaw folk hero," was extradited to the United States on Thursday. Guzmán landed at Long Island MacArthur Airport in Ronkonkoma last night and was whisked away to the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan.
El Chapo's second successful prison escape in 2015 involved an elaborate mile-long tunnel, complete with ventilation, lighting and a getaway motorcycle. His eventual capture was unwittingly brought about by Sean Penn, who interviewed Guzmán for Rolling Stone—the Oscar-winning actor managed to meet the drug lord in hiding thanks to Guzmán's fondness for actress Kate del Castillo. That interview with Penn helped Mexican authorities locate him.
According to Reuters, during his leadership of the Sinaloa cartel, Guzmán "oversaw perhaps the world's largest transnational cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine smuggling operation, playing a key role in Mexico's decade-long drug war that has killed over 100,000. The extradition came on the eve of Donald Trump's swearing-in as president, a coincidence that some officials saw as an olive branch to the real estate mogul who said he would kick Guzman's 'ass' on taking office."
Apparently the extradition was a bit of a surprise to U.S. officials, who reportedly only found out about it yesterday afternoon. The NY Times reports, "The official, who requested anonymity to discuss the case, said the 'guesstimate' was that the timing of the extradition was 'politically motivated.' The official did not elaborate."
— Josh Einiger (@JoshEiniger7) January 20, 2017
It had been speculated that if the Mexican government did extradite Guzmán to the U.S., he would face prosecution in the Eastern District of New York on numerous counts, including money laundering and murder. The Times wrote last year:
With charges brought in numerous jurisdictions in the United States, another key question is where Mr. Guzmán would be tried. One possibility, officials said, would be to try him in the eastern district of New York in Brooklyn — not only because he was indicted there, but also because Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch was the United States attorney when the charges were brought.
And she would be the one to ultimately decide where he would be tried.
Initial charges in Brooklyn against Mr. Guzmán and several associates were brought in 2009. More recently, when Ms. Lynch was in charge of the office, prosecutors in Brooklyn consolidated the charges against him with another pending case in Florida.
Their joint indictment charged Mr. Guzmán and another suspected leader of the Sinaloa Cartel, Ismael Zambada García, with distributing more than 500 tons of cocaine in the United States since the late 1980s. It also charged them with distribution of heroin, methamphetamine and marijuana.The Daily News reports
: "The Justice Department agreed to the Mexican government’s condition that Guzman would not face the death penalty if extradited — and amended the Brooklyn indictment to remove murder counts."
Guzmán's lawyer Andres Granados said, "It was illegal. They didn’t even notify us. They handled it politically to obscure the situation of the gas price hike. It’s totally political."
— CBS News (@CBSNews) January 20, 2017
U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District Robert Capers is holding a press conference this morning at 10 a.m. "to announce the extradition and arraignment of Joaquin Archivaldo Guzman Loera, also known as 'El Chapo,' in connection with his leadership of the Mexican organized crime syndicate known as the 'Sinaloa Cartel,'" a press release stated.