NEW YORK – The defense of Mexican drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán began Tuesday and was over in minutes, with a single FBI agent taking the stand.
The prosecution also read a “stipulation” from another witness who was unable to appear in court.
During his 15-minute testimony, FBI agent Paul Roberts discussed notes he took while interrogating an informant in the case against Guzmán, while the stipulation provided testimony that another informant told investigators that Guzmán was $20 million in debt and that Guzmán associates had recommended a lawyer to the informant.
The prosecution rested its case Monday after calling more than 50 witnesses. Day 36 of the trial unfolded Tuesday in federal court in Brooklyn, with the prosecution slated to begin closing arguments Wednesday.
US District Judge Brian Cogan sent jurors home following Tuesday’s testimony and asked them to determine whether they can arrange their schedules to begin deliberations Friday. The court has not regularly convened on Fridays during the case.
The defense is expected to make its closing arguments Thursday morning, and the jury is slated to receive its deliberation instructions later that day.
The defense objected to the structure of the jury instructions, which included subheadings connecting certain charges with specific testimony, but Cogan defended it, saying, “I think it’s a complex case, and we need to give the jury some guidance as to what they should be focusing on.”
Guzmán faces a range of charges, including international drug trafficking, conspiring to murder rivals, gun charges and money laundering.
His attorneys asked the court Monday to include in its jury instructions that the government’s “proof at most establishes the existence of several separate and independent conspiracies” rather than a single one. Prosecutors countered there is no basis for multiple conspiracy charges.
“The defendant had numerous co-conspirators, who changed over time, but the defendant remained at the crux of the conspiracy, as he rose to prominence in the Sinaloa Cartel over the course of the conspiracy.”
The prosecution also submitted a list of 27 targets of the alleged murder conspiracy. Some of the bullet points included multiple alleged targets, including informants and members of rival drug cartels.
The judge granted another prosecution motion to prevent the defense from claiming that Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada — also believed to be one of the heads of the Sinaloa Cartel — bribed the Mexican government to focus on Guzmán. In their motion asking the court to preclude Guzmán’s attorneys from making the claim, prosecutors pointed out Cogan’s own words from the second day of the trial.
“You can have two drug dealers, one of whom is paying off the government and one of whom is not. That does not mean the one who is not didn’t do the crimes,” the motion quotes Cogan as saying. “I really have to stop you from making the argument because it’s so misleading to the jury. It distracts them from the guilt or innocence of the defendant, which is what they have to determine.”
Testimony from cooperating witnesses, law enforcement and others has revealed alleged details of Guzmán’s life such as his hiding from authorities, his paranoia and obsession with electronically monitoring his wife, mistresses and associates, and allegations that his wife and sons, along with a former cartel associate, worked together to coordinate details of his final escape.
Jurors have seen dozens of messages and listened to calls between Guzmán and associates in which he discussed drug trafficking and even ordered executions.