El Chapo -- aka Joaquin Guzman -- one step closer to US extradition

Chuck Goudie Image
Friday, October 21, 2016

MEXICO CITY, Mexico -- Joaquin ''El Chapo'' Guzman has a final appeal standing between him and an American jail cell.

Mexico's Attorney General's Office says a federal judge there has denied the druglord's appeals against extradition to the U.S.

He had five appeals pending. In a statement Thursday, Mexican government officials said the judge denied two of the appeals and threw out the other three.

Last week, Mexico's national security commissioner said that Guzman could be extradited in January or February.

He is wanted on drug trafficking and other charges in Chicago, Brooklyn and several other jurisdictions.

The ruthless leader of the Sinaloa cartel escaped from a maximum-security prison in 2015 and was recaptured in January. He is currently imprisoned in the northern border state of Chihuahua.

As federal authorities in Chicago await a decision on whether Guzman will be tried here, the danger to anyone close to El Chapo was underscored in an assassination Tuesday.

The judge in his Mexico case was gunned down while jogging.

The judge assigned to the El Chapo case in Chicago may have been paying closer attention than anyone to what happened in Mexico.

Chief federal judge in Chicago Ruben Castillo would oversee the case if El Chapo was extradited here.

His counterpart in Mexico on the El Chapo case was executed on a street near his home 30 miles west of Mexico City, a bold attack caught on camera that left authorities with few clues.

In a video, you see judge Vicente Antonio Bermudez Zacarias jogging on the left - his assassin approaching from behind.

And then on a different security camera near his home, the long gunman gets to point blank range and fires a shot to the judge's head.

He is near death on the driveway as the assassin runs away the same way he came.

Judge Zacarias died a short time later at a hospital.

He has investigated some of Mexico's biggest drug gangs and was currently overseeing the case of El Chapo at the time of the assassination.

Judge Castillo is presiding over the Chicago case against El Chapo and his band of aides, associates and operatives - many of whom have already been sent to jail.

Federal prosecutors in Chicago are awaiting El Chapo's extradition to the U.S. to stand trial on charges either here or in Brooklyn, New York City, where he also is under indictment.

The Mexican judge targeted by an assassin Tuesday was in the middle of the extradition matter now before the court there. Most recently, he had suspended the extradition of El Chapo to the U.S., and his death will undoubtedly slow down the drug lord's removal to America.

The Mexico Attorney General's Office has now taken over the murder investigation.

One of El Chapo's attorneys says there's no reason to suspect the druglord was involved in the hit because he says the judge's death does nothing to improve El Chapo's situation. Surprisingly it is unusual for a Mexican judge handling drug cartel cases to be killed. During the decade-old drug war in Mexico it is more likely that local police and politicians are murdered by the cartels.