Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán’s family members are refusing to cough up attorney’s fees unless they hear the kingpin himself order the payment, it was revealed in court Thursday.
Guzmán – in what would have been his first public words since his extradition in Jan. 2017– stood shakily, clutching a piece of paper in his hand, before prosecutor Andrea Goldbarg interjected and said she was worried he’d use the opportunity to pass secret messages.
“He desires to speak to the court directly,” defense attorney A. Eduardo Balarezo said in Brooklyn federal court Thursday, as his client was overheard telling his interpreter in Spanish, “I am sick for all the situation.”
“He wants his family to know they should pay his attorney,” Balarezo continued. “Obviously he wants me to take my fees, and sometimes people need to hear that directly from the horse’s mouth.”
“I don’t see why his family would disbelieve you, with him sitting next to you,” Judge Brian Cogan said, as Guzmán blew kisses to his ex-beauty queen wife, Emma Coronel Aispuro, who sat in the gallery with their 6-year-old twin girls.
“The persons we are dealing with don’t always rely on the attorney’s word. That’s all I’m saying,” Balarezo said, shrugging.
When asked outside court who he was referencing, the lawyer deadpanned: “They know who they are.”
He clarified “friends” of his client had made a partial payment, but other fees were outstanding.
In court, the attorney also made it very clear his client intended to cut no deals or cooperate with the government.
Balarezo, when later asked for whom that message was intended, responded “The people who it was intended for know who they are.”
El Chapo also wanted to personally speak to the judge regarding his restrictive jail conditions, which Balarezo characterized as “preventing [Guzmán] from obtaining the defense that he wants.”
The Sinaloa Cartel leader has been vocal in court filings about his conditions while awaiting trial — saying they are worse than in Colorado’s notorious Supermax prison — with his lawyer Thursday saying his client’s health is continuing to deteriorate.
“He vomits all the time now, every day,” Balarezo said.
While Cogan ultimately declined to let the kingpin speak, he said Balarezo could file a letter on behalf of hid client and he would possible allow the accused drug lord to address the court during his next appearance in April.
During the brief hearing, Cogan also questioned the late trial date. The proceedings were originally slotted to begin in April, but were later pushed to a date in late September.
When asked why the late date, Balarezo quipped “In short, my wife would kill me,” to chuckles from the gallery.
Cogan was less sympathetic.
After asking how long the couple had been together–20 years–Cogan responded “she wont” and scheduled jury selection for Sept. 5.
Cogan previously ruled the jury will be kept anonymous and partially sequestered during the three to four month trial.
Guzmán is due back in court April 17.
Aispuro — who was inexplicably accompanied to court by her husband’s past counsel, Federal Defender Michelle Gelernt — did not speak as she left the courthouse.
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