The Sixth Amendment’s right to counsel is one of the bedrock principles of the American justice system: all those charged with a crime are guaranteed the right to counsel. If an individual charged with a crime cannot afford an attorney, since 1963 the Supreme Court has ruled that an attorney will be provided to him at no cost (Gideon v. Wainwright, 372 U.S. 335 (1963)). This attorney will either come in the form of a fulltime public defender or an attorney assigned by the court and paid by the hour. In either situation, these attorneys have a very large caseload and limited resources to devote to each assigned client. And now we come to the case of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman: extradited to the United States from Mexico in January of 2017, Guzman was provided federal public defenders at his first court appearance in the Eastern District of New York – despite the prosecutors claiming that his purported massive wealth did not entitle him to taxpayer-funded counsel. After all, the government was concerned that the American taxpayer would be forced to foot the massive legal bill generated from the numerous indictments lodged against Guzman in six separate American jurisdictions. Seven months later, the government is doing all that it can to prevent Mr. Guzman from hiring private counsel, ensuring that taxpayers will be forced to pay all legal expenses, as the first of up to six trials and appeals looms, in April of 2018. Continue reading
Jeffrey Lichtman has been retained to represent Joaquin Guzman in connection with his upcoming federal narcotics trial in the Eastern District of New York.
“Mr. Guzman has been subjected to the worst prison conditions I have ever seen in 27 years of visiting prisons all over the world. In the nearly seven months he has been detained at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in lower Manhattan, he has had not contact with any member of his family, either by mail, phone or in a visit; has not had contact with any inmates and spends 23 hours a day locked up in a cell with limited reading material. His only human contact is with prison guards who do not speak his native Spanish and attorneys who must communicate with him – and review voluminous discovery with him – through glass. I have spent approximately 100 hours with Mr. Guzman and have yet to shake his hand.
“In addition, due to the failure of the government to provide security clearance to any of his relatives, he has not even been able to make arrangements to retain a private attorney – despite the government’s insistence that he should not be permitted to continue to be represented by the Federal Defenders of New York, taxpayer-funded attorneys. The government, while claiming that Mr. Guzman is capable and thus required to hire private counsel, has not promised not to seek forfeiture of this fee. After seven months wasting away in prison, Mr. Guzman will finally be able to hire the legal counsel of his choice, seven months too late.
Recently a client charged with serious federal narcotics crimes came to me with a tale of woe: his prior counsel who had been representing him during the investigation phase of the case had incredibly been simultaneously representing a witness who was cooperating against him in the same case. When my new client was indicted he came to me, terrified, because a) his former lawyer knew all about his criminal background including the client’s culpability in the case for which he had just been indicted; and b) he was not an American citizen despite living in America since he was two years old; therefore, a conviction to any of the narcotics charges against him would result in his deportation back to a country he had not visited since he left as a child. The client was desperate and without hope: his former lawyer had advised him to either cooperate with the government or, if deported, to attempt to illegally sneak back into America – two choices the client was unwilling to do. Within 15 minutes of meeting this client and hearing his tale of woe, I told him “I know you won’t believe this but what your former lawyer did to you may end up being your only chance out of this mess.” Eleven months later, despite facing initially a minimum five to 40 years in prison pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(B) and definite deportation, my client received just a 30 month sentence to a Travel Act charge (a non-deportable offense) and received a recommendation for the Residential Drug Abuse Program (RDAP) which could result in his release from prison in just over a year. Moral to the story: as any of the best New York federal drug and narcotics attorneys know, when given lemons in a case make lemonade. Continue reading