Judge denies El Chapo’s request for better prison conditions

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A New York judge on Monday denied a request by convicted Mexican drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman for better prison conditions, saying he poses an escape risk.

The former Sinaloa cartel chief was convicted on February 12 of crimes spanning a quarter-century after a trial that laid bare his lavish lifestyle and penchant for extreme violence as the head of one of the world’s most powerful gangs.

Guzman, 62, is to be sentenced on June 25 and faces life in prison for smuggling tons of cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and marijuana into the United States.

He was also convicted on money laundering and weapons possession charges during a three-month trial in which witnesses described the mob boss beating, shooting and even burying alive those who got in his way.

Guzman is currently held in solitary confinement at a high-security prison in Lower Manhattan under special conditions that his lawyers last month claimed violate the constitutional ban on “cruel and unusual punishment.”

Through his attorneys, Guzman had requested at least two hours of outdoor recreation, in contrast to the single hour of solitary exercise he is currently allowed in another indoor cell.

On Monday, Judge Brian Cogan refused the request, saying the detention conditions were made necessary by Guzman’s repeated jailbreaks in Mexico.

Writing that it was “plausible” that Guzman could attempt to escape again, Cogan agreed with prosecutors and wrote that the prison conditions are “not designed to punish defendant, nor (are they) excessive or arbitrary.”

The judge also turned down Guzman’s request to access the prison commissary, saying “many items” sold can be “weaponized.”

Also refused was the kingpin’s request for earplugs, as they could prevent Guzman from hearing guards during an emergency or when they were issuing orders.

Guzman’s lawyers had argued that he needed to plug his ears “in order to alleviate his ear pain, and to assist his ability to sleep.”

Guzman twice escaped from high-security prisons in Mexico before being re-arrested in 2016 and extradited to the United States the following year.

His lawyers in March requested a new trial on the grounds that some jurors had followed media coverage of the first trial in violation of the judge’s orders.

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