NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — A federal judge in Brooklyn has set an April 2018 trial date for Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman.
Guzman answered the judge’s questions through an interpreter Friday. He spent half the hearing looking across the courtroom at his wife, who smiled and waved to him as she entered.
Defense lawyers complained that glass separated them from the defendant during their meetings, hindering communications. The judge said the matter will be investigated.
The 59-year-old defendant famous for twice escaping from prison in Mexico lost his bid Thursday to relax the terms of his confinement at a lower Manhattan lockup when U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan concluded that solitary confinement was appropriate.
Cogan said the U.S. government had good justifications for applying tough jail conditions on a man who escaped twice, including once through a mile-long tunnel stretching from the shower in his cell. Guzman will still be unable to see or call his wife, but will be allowed to send her letters, according to Thursday’s ruling.
His lawyers said in a statement that it was “devastating” for the defendant and his wife that they will not be allowed jail visits.
Guzman was brought to the U.S. in January to face charges that he oversaw a multi-billion dollar international drug trafficking operation responsible for murders and kidnappings. He has pleaded not guilty.
He has remained in a 20-by-12-foot (6-by-3.7-meter) cell for 23 hours a day in a wing of the Metropolitan Correctional Center that often is used to house high-risk inmates including terrorists.
The U.S. government has said severe restrictions are necessary for Guzman in part because he used coded messages, bribes and other means to continue operating his drug empire from behind bars and arrange escapes.
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