Thursday, January 31, 2019

El Chapo Trial: Lichtman asks in closing; "Would you let a Cifuentes babysit your children?" Your baby "would be sold for a kilo of cocaine."

Chivis Martinez Borderland Beat-material from Alan Feuer and Keegan Hamilton

Defense closing by Jeffery Lichtman 
[Digusting] Lichtman posted this image on screen from the projector; Suggesting anyone looking like that  would be mistaken for Chapo by the government: "It could have been Frito Bandito and they would have blamed it on Mr. Guzman."

Dramatic Closing End: 

Lichtman's closing statement ends with his voice trembling as he implores the jury: "You don't have to give into the myth of El Chapo and just convict."

Afterward, Chapo gripped his shoulder and gave him an enthusiastic handshake, signaling his approval.

The theme of the defense closing, orchestrated by Jeffery Lichtman, is that there is one leader and only one leader of the Sinaloa Cartel and that is El Mayo Zambada.

The theme is the same as we have heard sewn with bits and pieces through the testimony thread of the trial, but not ever really brought home as it should have been. 

As I discovered, there are PGR documents, exposed by Proceso and La Jornada that actually support this notion.  Saying Mayo was the true leader, and Chapo was a figure head to distract police agencies away from Mayo.

But of course the jury knows nothing of that.

In closing Lichtman said about the “ conspiracy plot against Chapo, "It's a brilliant plan for El Mayo Zambada and it has worked flawlessly for decades now."

Regarding Chapo’s escapes; "Who's to say it was Mr. Guzman not Mayo Zambada who paid for his freedom, all the way up to the president's office." calling EPN "as crooked as all the other law enforcement and politicians" in Mexico.- another missed opportunity, explain to the jury prison escape in Mexico is not unlawful and regarded as a natural instinct. 

In the beginning, there were 17 counts, now there are 9.

Defense Plan

Attack and impeach witnesses, especially cooperative witnesses as liars.  Which they should have done more of during case in chief. The proof was out there.

Or drive home how miscreant the cooperative witnesses are.  They did a decent job with this but it seemed lacking, such as the Javier Valdez murder.  That began with a great line of questioning; even the two part newspaper article by RioDoce pointing the finger at Damaso and Son for the murder, but Cogan cut that short.  That was wrong.  Jurors must be confused over that dialog. 

Zambadas-El Rey Serafin and Vicente
From Alan Feuer:

Lichtman added a few variations this time. Mayo's brother, Rey, and two of his sons, Serafin and Vicente, cooperated w/US authorities (Rey and Vicente testified at the trial) and Lichtman suggested this was a family strategy--that the Zambada's use cooperation as "a tool."

Serafin got a 5.5 year sentence. Lichtman suggested if Rey & Vicente got equally light sentences and were ultimately freed, it was a price worth paying.

He asked the jury if they'd spend 5 years in prison in order to return to a billion-dollar fortune. "It's not crazy," he said.

Lichtman also mentioned a bombshell trial moment: the $100 million bribe Chapo allegedly paid to former Mexican president Enrique Pena Nieto. He said Mayo paid it. His evidence?

Chapo didn't seem to get anything from it and was hunted during Pena Nieto's term. Also he was broke.

Lichtman's claims are supported by some facts. Mayo hasn't been caught while nearly everyone around has been--or is dead. It's true his family cooperated but the US still hasn't found him. It also seems true Chapo was in debt when he allegedly bribed EPN.

Lichtman explains why he asked Alex Cifuentes about the alleged bribe to EPN on cross-examination: "Why is this idiot lawyer eliciting this information about his client bribing the president of Mexico?… I knew he would blame Mr. Guzmán."

Jorge and Alex Cifuentes Villas
Lichtman savaging cooperators is top-notch entertainment. He reserved the best of ire for Alex and Jorge Cifuentes, the Colombian brothers who worked with and for Chapo for years.

Would you buy a used car from a Cifuentes? He asked the jury.

Would you let a Cifuentes babysit your children?

If so, he said, the car would break down the second it was off the lot and your baby "would be sold for a kilo of cocaine."

He re-read testimony where Alex admitted he'd lied to co-workers, friends, family, law enforcement agents, immigration officials, girlfriends and his own wife.

Q: You lied about Mr. Guzman, didn't you?
A: No, sir.
Q: He's the only person you didn't lie about?
A: That's right, sir

Lichtman, also using (some) facts, argued that Chapo had been wrongfully accused as early as 1993 when he was blamed for murdering the beloved Cardinal Ocampo at the Guadalajara airport--a killing several government  witnesses said was in fact committed by the Arellano Felix brothers.

Chapo later escaped prison (the 1st time), [from Jalisco in the infamous laundry basket] he said, not because he feared extradition, as govt witnesses claimed, but rather because he feared for his life. By Lichtman's account, Chapo--unlike Mayo--was then "hunted like an animal" for years (the rabbit metaphor came up again.)

Lichtman mentioned a story by Vicente Zambada who said DEA was able to reach his father while he was in prison. Agents plucked Vicente from his cell in Chicago and  put him on the phone w/Mayo. If the feds could find Mayo that way, why not arrest him, he said.

"The Mexicans [gov] don't want Mayo arrested," Lichtman said, "respectfully, because he's paying them huge bribes."

"So who takes the fall?" The famous Chapo, who can't keep his mouth shut when he goes on TV interviews."  His 50-50 partner, Mayo, has been interviewed by Proceso, but has never been arrested, leading a mostly private life.

"He's smiling, somewhere," Lichtman said of Mayo. "Just not here."


The no single conspiracy argument seems stronger. There's ample evidence the cartel wasn't a top-down cohesive entity but rather a loose band of constantly warring criminal partners. The jurors have to find that Chapo committed at least 3 crimes with at least 5 other people.

Lichtman is of course attempting to sow doubt that the Sinaloa cartel was a cohesive criminal unit--and that Mayo ran it, not Chapo.

Lichtman Admonitions

Tally of admonitions given to Lichtman by Judge Cogan, so far: 4

His reprimands were for; “coarse language”, for the accusation of government torture, accusing the government of encouraging witnesses to lie, and that one witness had someone killed [Javier Valdez?]

So what’s the problem I ask?

(He confessed to having "a potty mouth.") That didn't stop him from mentioning repeatedly that Pedro Flores, Chapo's top US distributor, had sex--twice--with his wife in government  custody.

Lichtman in comparing Pedro Flores having sex with his wife while in custody to Chapo;

"Mr. Guzman can't hug his daughters," Lichtman said. "He's a human being too. He's has feelings too."

I wonder how a juror perceives the constant and seemingly abrupt halt to questions and statements by the defense. 

Memorable [?] Lichtman quotes without context:
  • "Pure unadulterated gibberish"
  • "Any of you old enough to remember Abbott and Costello, 'Who's on Third?'
  • "He killed like a zillion of them"
  • "This is Mexico, this isn't Mars"
  • "He's a human being too, he has feelings too."
From Keegan Hamilton:

Lichtman on the attempted grenade attack on Miguel Martinez: "It's like when I watched Batman as a kid, the Penguin and the Joker would go through all these machinations to kill Batman. Why don't you just take a gun and shoot him?!"

Lichtman on Chupeta: "he's a bottomless pit of immorality… this guy — you're changing your underwear he's killing people… he butchered his face — and his ears — to avoid getting caught.… that's what a real drug kingpin looks like — that guy is scary."

Lichtman on Lucero Sanchez: "A 21-year-old girl hunting down cut-rate marijuana deals… that doesn't sound like the head of the Sinaloa cartel. If that's the head of the Sinaloa cartel, we've got problems."

It’s really Mayo not Chapo’s Voice

Lichtman also took the Mayo conspiracy to a whole new level. He suggested all of the wiretapped phone calls were actually Mayo's voice and not Chapo's:

"What the government is hiding from you is the voice on those tapes could be anyone — it could be Mayo Zambada — who knows."

Then Litchman turned to the torture tape depicting a man in a black cap.  But an agent "whose never met, seen or heard Mr. Guzmán in his life says it is him on the tape.”

He flashed a black cap on a screen, then El Mayo in a black cap. "Oops," he said.

Dramatic Closing End

Lichtman's closing statement ends with his voice trembling as he implores the jury: "You don't have to give into the myth of El Chapo and just convict." He asked the jury to “look past the myth" and into their own hearts where he hoped they would find---doubt. He urged them to hold onto that doubt.

Afterward, Chapo gripped his shoulder and gave him an enthusiastic handshake, signaling his approval.

He better be pleased—he hand picked him for the closing. 


Most effective bit from the government’s rebuttal had to do with the cooperators: “we did not pick these people, Chapo Guzmán picked these people… you know a man by the company he keeps, ladies and gentlemen this is the company he keeps.” [source Hamilton]

Another one, on the defense claims about a plot against Chapo: “The government is not on trial, the defendant is. Don’t let them distract you from that fact.”

And finally, on Chapo: “He’s not a made up myth or an inflated presence that we keep hearing about. This is reality.”

Government rebuttal next---then jury instructions and deliberations began on Monday