As half a dozen legal districts compete for who will get to try notorious Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán after his extradition to the U.S., the City of Miami, Florida has emerged as a top contender.
According to the Centre Daily Times, U.S. and Mexican officials are engaged in high-level talks to determine whether Guzmán will be tried in Miami or Brooklyn, New York. Federal prosecutors in six states have filed indictments against Guzman, but the Eastern District of New York and the Southern District of Florida have overlapping cases that could be combined. As a result, Brooklyn and Miami have made it to the top of the list of possible venues for Guzmán’s trial.
‘The Southern District of Florida’s extraordinary record with respect to major narcotics-trafficking cases could be an important factor,’ Kendall Coffey, a former United States attorney in Miami, told McClatchy news service. ‘It’s a history-making case that, if successful, could deal a huge blow to today’s most violent drug trafficker. This case will define careers for prosecutors, (drug) agents and even the trial judge.’
“Initially, the plan was New York,” a law enforcement official familiar with the case told the Washington, D.C. based news outlet. “After Guzman’s recent recapture, Miami is now under serious consideration as the (trial) venue.”
Guzmán was apprehended on January 8, roughly six months after he escaped from a maximum-security Mexican prison in mid-July 2015. He had only been in prison for 16 months after being previously apprehended in February 2014. Prior to that, had had been a fugitive for 13 years.
The Mexican government declined to enter into extradition proceedings after El Chapo was captured in February 2014, assuring the country it would be able to contain Guzmán and try him in a fair and transparent manner. His escape 16 months later was a huge embarrassment for President Enrique Peña Nieto’s administration; so much so that the government agreed to extradite 13 top-level drug traffickers to the U.S. in April 2015, possibly out of fear that the stunt would be repeated.
Extradition proceedings for Guzmán have officially begun. However, due to legal measures that can be taken by Guzmán’s lawyers and the courts, the Mexican government estimates it could take up to a year for El Chapo to see the inside of a U.S. courtroom. Drug war observers are concerned that, despite the increased security measures being taken at the prison where Guzmán is being held, 12 months provides the drug lord’s people with ample time to plan another escape.
Sylvia Longmire is a border security expert and Contributing Editor for Breitbart Texas. You can read more about cross-border issues in her latest book, Border Insecurity: Why Big Money, Fences, and Drones Aren’t Making Us Safer.