El Chapo sentencing: Sinaloa drug lord Joaquin Guzman gets life in prison

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The world's wealthiest drug kingpin, nicknamed "Shorty," will be locked up for a long time.

Amid a chorus of whining and personal complaints to the judge, Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, 62, was sentenced Wednesday to the rest of his life behind bars. In February a New York federal jury convicted the 5'6" drug lord of being CEO of Mexico's ruthless Sinaloa cartel.

It was a trial that could have been held in Chicago, where Chapo is still under indictment for running an army of illicit foot soldiers that moved tons of cocaine and heroin via planes, trains, trucks and even submarines.

The U.S. Department of Justice decided to give prosecutors in Brooklyn first crack at El Chapo, even though federal law enforcement insiders consider the Chicago case a tighter fit.

In the end, with overwhelming evidence, U.S. authorities got what they wanted: the world's most potent drug dealer off the streets forever.

After two escapes from Mexican jails, when Chapo was recaptured the last time in 2016, Washington made an agreement with Mexican officials not to seek the death penalty in exchange for his extradition.

On Wednesday that deal was consummated with a life sentence for the stocky dope magnate, handed down by U.S. District Court Judge Brian Cogan, a Chicago native and graduate of University of Illinois.

Cogan was castigated by El Chapo during his allotted time to address the court. In what may be his final public speaking role ever, Chapo complained about the conditions of his confinement and told Judge Cogan his rights were violated during the prosecution and claimed he was being tortured in jail.

"My case was stained and you denied me a fair trial when the whole world was watching," Guzman said in Spanish. "When I was extradited to the United States, I expected to have a fair trial, but what happened was exactly the opposite" he said via a translator.

His sentence-actually on the books as life plus 30 years- was no surprise. His 11-week trial ended in a conviction and mandatory sentence of life with no chance for parole .

Although the billionaire cartel boss claims now to be destitute, he is facing a criminal forfeiture bill from Judge Cogan of $12.6 billion, reflecting the lifetime of ill-gotten profits from his organization. The ABC7 I-Team has reported that El Chapo controlled 80% of the street drug sales in Chicago along according to federal drug enforcement officials. His Sinaloa cartel also used Chicago as a main U.S. distribution hub, transshipping cocaine, heroin, marijuana and methamphetamines from the city to dozens of metro areas and hamlets across the country. As a cost of doing business, El Chapo killed-or caused the demise of-dozens, if not hundreds, of rivals, distrusted insiders, Mexican police who got too close and even judges who posed a threat.

Chapo's defense attorneys argued, unsuccessfully, that the legal die was cast from the day he arrived on U.S. soil. They repeatedly criticized the government's reliance on former cartel insiders who were trying to save themselves.

"It was not justice" said defense attorney Jeffrey Lichtman. It was "all part of a show trial" Lichtman said.

What happens next?

El Chapo is not likely to be prosecuted in Chicago or anywhere else where he is facing federal charges. With a life sentence hanging over his head, the government's main objective will be to keep the cunning escape artist behind bars.

With Chapo's allegedly hidden wealth and a still-allegiant troop of underlings (including his sons and other relatives) he will be considered at high-risk for an escape attempt. Because of that, his final home will no doubt be ADX: United States Penitentiary, Administrative Maximum Facility in Florence, Colorado-the most secure prison in America.

That prison is known simply as "the Supermax" where some of the nation's most notorious and dangerous criminals are held.

Among the 376 inmates currently housed at The Supermax about 40 miles south of Colorado Springs are Chicago Outfit bosses Joey "the Clown" Lombardo and James "Jimmy the Man" Marcello-both serving life terms; notorious Illinois racist Matt Hale and international terrorist Ramzi Yousef.

The facility is wedged into the side of a mountain and considered escape-proof.

A former ADX warden called a prison sentence there "far much worse than death."
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