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Lawyer claims El Chapo’s jailed wife would not testify against the cartel

The wife of jailed drug lord Joaquín ‘El Chapo‘ Guzmán will not cooperate with the US government in exchange for a lighter sentence because she fears for the safety of their twin 10-year-old daughters, her lawyer said.

Instead, Emma Coronel will seek the safety valve exception, requiring her to meet a series of guidelines that could see her spend anywhere in between five to seven years in prison.

‘She has (her two) girls in Mexico and it is very well known what happens to cooperators or to the family of collaborators,’ said criminal attorney Mariel Colón in an interview with Univision. ‘Then why expose, risk the lives of her girls, the life of her family, when there is another resource that can help her and allow her to leave in the same time that she would have left if she had cooperate.’

Colón added that Coronel is allowed to leave her jail cell for four hours a day and has not seen her twin daughters because of COVID-19 restrictions that prohibit inmates from receiving visitors.

The 31-year-old has been in federal custody since February when she was detained at Dulles International Airport in Virginia. She pleaded guilty June 10 to conspiring to help El Chapo operate Sinaloa Cartel, the multibillion-dollar drug trafficking empire that he co-founded.

Emma Coronel, the wife of Joaquín ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán, with lawyer Mariel Colón leave a federal courthouse in Brooklyn after attending El Chapo’s trial hearing on January 31, 2019. In a recent interview with Univision, Colón said Coronel will not cooperate with the federal government while she awaits to be sentenced November 30. Coronel was arrested in February at Dulles International Airport in Virginia and in June pleaded guilty to conspiring to help El Chapo operate Sinaloa Cartel

Joaquín 'El Chapo' Guzmán co-founded the Sinaloa Cartel, which under his watch made billons of dollars trafficking drugs across the world. He is serving a life sentence in the United States

Joaquín ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán co-founded the Sinaloa Cartel, which under his watch made billons of dollars trafficking drugs across the world. He is serving a life sentence in the United States

Coronel, who waived her right to a trial by jury, admitted to conspiring to distributing heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine and marijuana.

She also entered a guilty plea for a money laundering conspiracy charge and engaging in transaction with a foreign drug trafficker. 

Coronel initially was expected to be sentenced September 15, but it was postponed until November 30 so that her team of lawyers led by Jeffrey Lichtman and Colón, who also represented El Chapo, could weigh their options.

Emma Coronel, who was born in the United States, married Joaquín 'El Chapo' Guzmán at the age of 18

Emma Coronel, who was born in the United States, married Joaquín ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán at the age of 18

Inés Coronel, whose daughter Emma Coronel is married to Joaquín 'El Chapo' Guzmán, in serving a 10 years and five months sentenced in Mexico for illegal possession of firearms and smuggling drugs to the Unites States. The 53-year-old was a former high-ranking leader within El Chapo's Sinaloa Cartel

Inés Coronel, whose daughter Emma Coronel is married to Joaquín ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán, in serving a 10 years and five months sentenced in Mexico for illegal possession of firearms and smuggling drugs to the Unites States. The 53-year-old was a former high-ranking leader within El Chapo’s Sinaloa Cartel

Instead of testifying against El Chapo, like the 15 witnesses who helped U.S. prosecutors put him away in jail for life and received deals that either sprung them out of jail or shortened their sentences, Coronel’s lawyers will attempt to get her sentenced under the safety valve, allowing the judge to apply a sentence that is well under the minimum term.

Colón argued that Coronel will meet the exception’s five criteria because she is pleading guilty to her first criminal offense.

The defense is confident Coronel can prove that she is not the ‘leader, organizer, or supervisor in the commission of the offense’ and that she can show she did not use ‘violence in the commission of the offense, and the offense must not have resulted in serious injury.’ 

Also prior to being sentenced, the safety valve requires that the defendant ‘must tell the government all that he knows of the offense and any related misconduct,’ which Coronel already has.

‘If she obviously qualifies for that (safety valve) that is determined by the judge the day he (announces the sentence), they could then give you one more reduction, not to say the mandatory minimum, but a lower sentence,’ Colón said.

Qualifying under the safety valve would mean that Coronel would not have to go under witness protection if she would have decided to turn against the cartel. 

Emma Coronel, according to her lawyer, is allowed to leave her jail cell for four hours a day and has not seen her twin daughters because of COVID-19 restrictions that prohibit inmates from receiving visitors

Emma Coronel, according to her lawyer, is allowed to leave her jail cell for four hours a day and has not seen her twin daughters because of COVID-19 restrictions that prohibit inmates from receiving visitors

Mexican news magazine Proceso reported in August that it had obtained information from sources with U.S. Department of Justice who claim that Coronel was ready to furnish details linking El Chapo’s sons – Joaquín Guzmán López, Ovidio Guzmán López, Ivan Archivaldo Guzmán Salazar and Jesús Alfredo Guzmán Salazar, otherwise know as ‘Los Chapitos – to the Sinaloa Carte. 

Department of Justice, according to Proceso, indicated it ‘would expect information from her on the modus operandi of her husband’s children, now in charge of the fraction of the cartel that their father led.’

As part collaborating with the government, Coronel would look at five years in prison, regain custody of the couple’s twin daughters and be placed in the United States Federal Witness Protection Program.

‘She does not need to (go into witness protection,’ Colón said. ‘She fulfills her sentence, she accepts her responsibility, she qualifies for this resource, she fulfills the years that she has to serve. She is an American citizen. She then can stay here. To get into a witness protection program is to change your whole life, your whole identity.’ 


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