Where and for What Will 'El Chapo' Be Tried?

By Christopher Coble, Esq. on February 17, 2016 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Mexican drug kingpin Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman was in jail in Mexico. And then he wasn't. And then he was again. And then he wasn't. And then he talked to Sean Penn, and now he's back in a federal prison in Mexico. But that might not be where he'll stay.

U.S. Department of Justice officials are planning to extradite El Chapo to Brooklyn, New York to face 21 criminal charges including drug trafficking, money laundering, and murder. Will the breakout artist really make it to New York? And if so, will it be in police custody?

Extra Extra Extradite!

Mexico does have an extradition treaty with the United States, although that process can take some time. And it also takes some cooperation on behalf of Mexican law enforcement.

The New York Daily News is reporting that a Mexican federal law enforcement official said, "Mexico is ready" the to extradite El Chapo, but said formal extradition may not begin immediately. Experts warn that his attorney may battle the extradition in court, which could mean it will be even longer before El Chapo sees New York.

Plenty of Charges to Go Around

The notorious drug kingpin has also been indicted in Chicago, Manhattan, and Miami among other cities where his cocaine network is alleged to have operated. Justice Department officials believe the Brooklyn indictment, however, is the strongest, giving prosecutors the best chance of getting a conviction. (It doesn't hurt that Brooklyn was former office of current Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch.)

But an El Chapo trial in Brooklyn, or anywhere else, is no slam dunk. First, the Mexican government hasn't officially signed off on extradition, which could require U.S. officials to promise not to pursue the death penalty. Second, a legal challenge to extradition could take years to complete. And finally, even if El Chapo loses that battle, he could plead guilty to charges in Mexico (a common kingpin tactic), and nullify any pending extradition.

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