Federal prosecutors in Chicago fighting to get El Chapo trial

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Federal prosecutors in Chicago are fighting to try El Chapo in Chicago, arguing that they have the strongest case against the drug lord. (WLS)

Media reports in New York that drug lord Joaqin "El Chapo" Guzman will be tried in Brooklyn if he is extradited from Mexico, may be premature, a federal official said Thursday.

A top Drug Enforcement Administration official in Washington, D.C., told the I-TEAm that "it ain't over until it's over" in regards to the decision about where El Chapo will have his day in court.

Even though El Chapo is charged in a half-dozen jurisdictions, New York and Chicago are the two most likely places for him to be prosecuted.

The drug lord is tucked away in a Mexican jail cell as both the DEA and U.S. Justice Department officials try to decide where El Chapo will be prosecuted if extradited.

"This is not uncommon where someone can be indicted in different districts, and main justice, the Department of Justice, which district has the best case, has the best facts, will look at some of the attorneys there to see if they've handled these kind of cases, and then will determine what is in the best interest of the criminal justice system for this defendant to go," said Jeffrey Cramer, of Kroll Global Security, and a former federal prosecutor.

The New York Times reported Thursday that if El Chapo is extradited, he "would be tried in federal court in Brooklyn." Also, the website for a New York TV station said the same thing: "The wheels are being set in motion to bring El Chapo here to New York, specifically Brooklyn."

However, the former head of the DEA's Chicago office, Jack Riley, said he's still fighting for Chicago to get the case. Riley now runs world operations for the DEA in Washington, D.C.

Also, a source in the U.S. Attorney's Office in Chicago said reports that Brooklyn already got the case are pure speculation, even though the current attorney general ran that office at the time El Chapo was indicted there.

Reports that El Chapo is engineering a guilty plea with U.S. authorities as long as they agree not to assign him to a super-max prison were discredited Thursday evening.

"The Bureau of Prisons are the ones that determine where an individual goes," Cramer said. "I've never seen them agree to a defendant where they will be sent if they will plead guilty. Here you have an individual who has escaped from prison twice so certainly the Bureau of Prisons would put him in a maximum security and probably supermax is where he might go."

First Mexico and the U.S. have to agree to the terms of El Chapo's extradition, most notably that there will be no death penalty.

Some federal attorneys say Brooklyn has the best case, however, the Chicago indictment against El Chapo includes the drug lord on undercover tape admitting to running the Sinaloa cartel and discussing its operation with twin brothers from Little Village neighborhood, who would testify against him.
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