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February 17, 2019

El Chapo lawyers under pressure to get through mountain of legal documents before trial starts

October 10, 2018
Authorities escort Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, center, from a plane to a waiting caravan of SUVs at Long Island MacArthur Airport, in Ronkonkoma, N.Y. U.S. prosecutors and lawyers for infamous drug lord Guzman are sparring over his tough jail conditions. (AP)

With less than a month to go before trial begins for notorious Mexican drug lord Joaquin (El Chapo) Guzman, his lawyers are feeling the pressure.

Guzman’s attorneys complained on Wednesday about having just three weeks to read through an estimated 13,000 pages of evidence recently handed over by federal prosecutors.

“This is a big case,” Guzman’s attorney Jeffrey Lichtman told reporters after a pretrial hearing at Brooklyn Federal Court. “It’s too big, in my estimation, for it to be done competently (in) such short time after receiving the materials.”

The infamous drug kingpin’s defense team has repeatedly tried in vain to push back the start date of the highly anticipated trial, slated to begin Nov. 5.

On Wednesday, Lichtman called on prosecutors to rearrange the multitude of documents in a way that would make them easier to get through. U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan declined to issue such a ruling, though he acknowledged the heavy workload the lawyers face.

“Even your big cases might not be this big,” the judge said.

Attorney Jeffrey Lichtman leaves Brooklyn Federal Court, Monday, Aug. 14, 2017 in New York following a hearing for Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman.
Attorney Jeffrey Lichtman leaves Brooklyn Federal Court, Monday, Aug. 14, 2017 in New York following a hearing for Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman. (Mark Lennihan / AP)

The notorious leader of the Sinaloa Cartel, 61, has been awaiting trial in Metropolitan Correctional Center in Lower Manhattan since his extradition to the U.S. in Jan. 2017. Guzman, who successfully escaped from Mexican prisons on two separate occasions, has pleaded not guilty to a 17-count indictment that includes charges of drug trafficking, murder conspiracy and money laundering.

Outside of court, Lichtman said he and Guzman’s two other attorneys, Eduardo Balarezo and William Purpura, will make the most of the time they have left.

“The problem is, I’m just one guy. We have other lawyers, but that’s just two more guys,” he said. “We’re three men in a foxhole.”

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