The end is nigh.
Yesterday was day 37 in the trial of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, with Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrea Goldbarg laying out her closing arguments.
Today, the defence is expected to make their closing arguments, which will be followed by the prosecutors’ rebuttal and the jury’s deliberations.
In other words, it’s almost over.
We have covered some of these during the trial, but it serves as a decent reminder of how many ‘wow’ moments have taken place inside the Brooklyn courthouse.
Here are five that stand out:
10) The Poisoned Arepa
Before he was one of El Chapo’s primary cocaine suppliers, drug lord Jorge Cifuentes was a young punk locked up in a Colombian prison. He wanted to move up the ranks in the Medellín cartel, so he agreed to murder a fellow inmate…
…the cartel gave him a choice of three ways to commit the hit: a knife, a grenade, and cyanide. He opted to slip the poison into an arepa from the prison kitchen that made its way onto the target’s plate. The plot fell apart when the guy lost his appetite. Cifuentes later gave up after botching the grenade attack…
An arepa is “a type of food made of ground maize dough or cooked flour prominent in the cuisine of Colombia and Venezuela”, you gringo.
8) The Helicopter Crash at the Ostrich Ranch
Jorge Cifuentes was so rattled after his Cessna flight into the mountains that when he arrived, he told Chapo he would buy him a brand-new helicopter “so he would fly in a more civilized way.” Cifuentes kept his word, gifting his partner a $1 million chopper specially designed to maneuver in tight spaces. Cifuentess brother Alex encouraged Chapo to take pilot lessons so that he could fly away at a moment’s notice in the event of a surprise raid.
Chapo never learned how to fly, but perhaps he should have: One of the cartel’s pilots crashed the helicopter by flying it inside a hanger located at an ostrich ranch on the outskirts of Culiacán (unclear whether any ostriches were harmed in the incident). Cifuentes and Chapo later conspired to push the helicopter off a cliff as part of an insurance fraud scam.
6) The 20 Tons of Sunken Cocaine
[Witness Juan Carlos Ramírez Abadía — better known as] Chupeta said a Mexican ship’s captain sampled too much of the cargo and “started to see ghosts” that resembled U.S. Coast Guard ships, leading him to scuttle the boat with all the drugs on board. He had enough sense to take down the coordinates of the shipwreck, but when Chupeta and one of El Chapo’s Sinaloa cartel partners did a flyover of the site they found “nothing other than sea — just the sea.”
Cartel divers found the sunken treasure after more than a year of searching, and Chupeta sent a Colombian chemist to salvage the waterlogged Coke. Chupeta never mentioned what happened to the captain, but presumably he ended up sleeping with the fishes.
3) The Mile-Long Escape Tunnel with a Motorcycle Inside
Chapo’s escape from a maximum-security prison near Mexico City was the stuff of legend even before the trial, but witness Dámaso López offered some new details that made it even more spectacular. According to López, Chapo’s right-hand man throughout the 2000s, the tunnel was masterminded by Chapo’s sons — with some key assistance from his wife Emma Coronel…
This whole scenario has been played out in the video below, if you have a few minutes spare:
1) The Torture
Isaias Valdez Rios, a former army special forces member who became a hitman for Chapo, was the last cooperating witness called by the government. Valdez, known by the nickname Memín, described the routine day-in-the-life of a sicario, which included graphic details about how he saw Chapo personally torture and murder at least three people.
We covered El Chapo’s torture stories, and those of the Sinaloa Cartel, in greater depth here.
Who knows what twists and turns and revelations are left in this case, but so far it’s certainly lived up to its billing as the trial of the decade.
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