Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman returns to court in drug case

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The 59-year-old defendant, famous for twice escaping from prison in Mexico, lost his bid to relax the terms of his confinement at a lower Manhattan lockup when U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan concluded that solitary confinement was appropriate.

A USA judge on Thursday relaxed slightly the stringent custody conditions of Mexican drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, allowing him to correspond with his beauty queen wife.

"Yes, sir, I want to continue with my federal defender attorneys", he told the judge. "Are we supposed to hold 100,000 pages to a Plexiglas wall?"

Mexican Drug Lord Joaquin Guzman is scheduled to stand trial on federal charges in April of 2018. The judge similarly allowed his defenders' pre-cleared investigator to visit without an attorney present. Cogan said the restrictions were typical of solitary confinement and rejected a request for an Amnesty International visit.

U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan in Brooklyn federal court acknowledged at a hearing Friday that the date was "somewhat aspirational" and could be delayed, given the complexity of the case and the amount of evidence that lawyers must review ahead of trial.

But Cogan declined to intervene on complaints over the size of Guzman's cell, his window, whether he could hear "phantom music" or television programming during his daily hour of exercise.

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Guzman had tried obtaining at least 16 private attorneys over the past three months, but has landed on representatives from the Federal Defenders, who were temporarily appointed by Judge James Orenstein at Guzman's January 20 arraignment.

The bulk of the session was devoted to a hearing on whether El Chapo's public defenders have a conflict of interest because other lawyers in their office have briefly represented confidential witnesses who may testify against him.

Guzman's request that he be put into the general prisoner population was denied.

"The court would be hard pressed", he wrote "not to acknowledge" that Guzman's second jail break in Mexico "was accomplished under 24-hour video surveillance in solitary confinement".

Back when the The Guardian profiled her a year ago, Rosa Isela Guzman Ortiz made the explosive claim that her drug-lord father bankrolled Mexican politicians and entered the United States twice after a prison break. His lawyers had called the conditions inhumane and argued that restrictions limiting access to his lawyers and barring him from seeing or speaking on the phone with his wife violated his constitutional rights.

Aispuro, who listened to a translation of the hearing through headphones, did not speak to reporters after the hearing, rushing to a taxi in black stilettos as a horde of worldwide media crowded around her.

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