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El Chapo awaits life in prison sentence by US judge

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After a run as one of the world’s most powerful and notorious criminals, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman is expected to be sentenced to life in prison when he appears in a New York courtroom on Wednesday.

Guzman, the 62-year-old former leader of the powerful Sinaloa drug cartel, was convicted in February of crimes spanning a quarter of a century, including trafficking hundreds of tons of cocaine, heroin, methamphetamines and marijuana to the United States.

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The charges, which also include money laundering and weapons-related offenses, carry a mandatory life sentence.

PGR/AFP/File / HO Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman — seen here in a photo released in 2014 by Mexican authorities — is expected to spend the rest of his life in a US federal prison

Last week, prosecutors asked US federal judge Brian Cogan to tack on a symbolic extra 30 years in prison for the use of firearms in his business, portraying Guzman as “ruthless and bloodthirsty.”

They also want Guzman to turn over $12.7 billion, based on a conservative estimate of revenues from his cartel’s drug sales in the United States. So far, US authorities have not recovered a dime.

HO/AFP/File / HO Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, seen in 2016 after his re-arrest in Mexico

Guzman is considered to be the most powerful drug lord since Colombia’s Pablo Escobar, killed in a police shootout in 1993.

“El Chapo” (“Shorty”) was the co-leader of the still-powerful Sinaloa organization.

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During the three-month trial in New York, jurors heard evidence of Guzman’s misdeeds. Witnesses described the cartel boss beating, shooting and even burying alive those who got in his way, including informants and rival gang members.

At least one of Guzman’s victims — a woman who prosecutors say survived a hit ordered by the kingpin — will speak at Wednesday’s sentencing hearing.

– ‘Alcatraz of the Rockies’ –

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Guzman launched his career working in the cannabis fields of his home state of Sinaloa. Now, he is likely to spend the rest of his days at the “Alcatraz of the Rockies” — the supermax federal prison in Florence, Colorado.

US DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE/AFP/File / HO A photo released by the US Department of Justice shows Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman as he was extradited to the United States in 2017

Current inmates include convicted “Unabomber” Ted Kaczynski, Oklahoma City bomber Terry Nichols, the British “shoe bomber” Richard Reid and the Boston marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who is awaiting execution.

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Since his extradition from Mexico in 2017, Guzman has been held in solitary confinement at a high-security prison in Lower Manhattan.

He has repeatedly complained about the conditions of his detention via his attorneys — notably that his windowless cell is constantly lit.

On Wednesday, Guzman — who famously escaped Mexican prisons in 2001 and again in 2015 — could see his wife Emma Coronel and their two daughters for the last time.

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AFP/File / Jason Connolly Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman is expected to serve his sentence at the Administrative Maximum Facility, also known as the ADX or “supermax” prison, in Florence, Colorado — known as the “Alcatraz of the Rockies”

“The government’s request of life plus 30 years is a farce,” said Guzman’s attorney Eduardo Balarezo. “Joaquin’s conviction and incarceration for drug trafficking will change nothing in the so-called war on drugs.”

New York’s special narcotics prosecutor Bridget Brennan acknowledged that taking El Chapo out of the equation did not diminish the Sinaloa cartel’s influence.

“We believe that’s the one that supplies most of the drugs coming into the US,” she told AFP.


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A law professor explains why hearsay isn’t a problem for Congress in impeachment hearings

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Wednesday’s testimony by U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland included the allegation that Sondland pushed Ukraine to investigate the Biden family in exchange for U.S. political support at the “express direction” of President Donald Trump.

Sondland’s version of events comes as others’ statements about the president’s involvement have been attacked by Republicans.

Trump’s defenders have suggested that the overall impeachment effort is illegitimate or somehow tainted because of Democrats’ reliance on what the GOP alleges is “hearsay.”As a professor of law, I know this claim is incorrect.

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George Conway goes after ‘delusional demagogue’ Trump for calling impeachment investigators ‘human scum’

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On Thursday, President Donald Trump once again lashed out at the House Democrats overseeing the impeachment investigation, tweeting that they are "human scum" who have "taken Due Process and all of the Republican Party’s rights away from us" — even though Republicans have gotten equal question time and were allowed to appoint their own counsel and call their own witnesses.

Conservative lawyer George Conway promptly fired back, excoriating the president for his behavior:

Here is the president of the United States, demonstrating once again that he is a pathological liar, a delusional demagogue, a narcissistic sociopath, a malignant narcissist, and utterly unfit for office. https://t.co/hGzz9JTDGA

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Pope urges respect for prostitutes at crowded Bangkok mass

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Pope Francis led an impassioned mass for tens of thousands of emotional worshippers at a packed Bangkok stadium Thursday, urging respect for prostitutes and trafficking victims in a part of the world where sex work is rampant.

The remarks came at the end of a whirlwind day of meetings for Pope Francis, who is on his first trip to Buddhist-majority Thailand where he is carrying a message of religious harmony and peace.

He heads to Japan next, visiting the twin atomic bombs sites of Nagasaki and Hiroshima where he will seek a ban on "immoral" nuclear weapons.

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