Federal prosecutors in New York are seeking sanctions against attorneys for Joaquin Archivaldo Guzman Loera, commonly known as El Chapo. The alleged drug lord is currently on trial, and there are strict rules in place against anyone other than his lawyers contacting him. A letter to the court on Tuesday claims that his lawyers have broken these rules. The letter states that request for sanctions is “in relation to the use of a cellular telephone by the defendant’s wife, Emma Coronel Aispuro.”
Non-lawyers are not allowed to bring cell phones into the federal courthouse, as stated in court rules and on signs present at the court. Nevertheless, Aispuro allegedly brought a phone into the Eastern District of New York federal courthouse on multiple occasions, the letter says. Prosecutors got word from Court Security Officers that Aispuro had a phone inside the courthouse on November 20. When security personnel viewed video footage, they didn’t see evidence of her with a phone on that day, but they did catch her using a phone the day before.
Besides being a violation of courthouse rules that apply in all cases, prosecutors are especially concerned that Aispuro had a phone with her in order to engage in unauthorized communication with El Chapo through his lawyers. The letter notes that restrictions on El Chapo’s communications were put in place “based on a determination by the Attorney General that communications and contacts between the defendant and other persons could result in death or serious bodily injury to others.” Regulations of El Chapo’s communications specifically forbade contact with his wife, the letter says.
By signing off on these restrictions, prosecutors say, “counsel and counsel’s staff agree not to forward third-party messages to or from the defendant.” Despite this agreement with El Chapo’s counsel, they believe lawyers have violated the terms by allowing certain communication involving his wife. Any specific allegations in the letter were redacted.
“The government submits that sanctions are warranted,” the letter said, leaving the nature of the sanctions up to the court’s discretion. A recommendation for the minimum sanctions was also redacted.
[Image via ALFREDO ESTRELLA/AFP/Getty Images]