NEW YORK — Days after embarrassing personal testimony by Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán’s former mistress, there was no outward sign of any rift between the alleged Mexican drug lord and his wife.
Guzmán entered a Brooklyn federal courtroom Monday morning in a wine-red velvet jacket, a choice that contrasted sharply with the business suits he’s worn for much of his drug trafficking trial.
A moment later, his wife, Emma Coronel Aispuro, entered the courtroom in apparent sartorial solidarity. She sported a tight-fitting red velvet jacket adorned with black and red decorations around the sleeve cuffs.
There was no official word from Guzmán’s legal team. But defense attorney Jeffrey Lichtman scoffed at any implication the couple somehow found a way around the security restriction that bars them from having any personal contact.
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As he has during most days of the trial, Guzmán spotted his wife, smiled and waved as she took her seat in a second-row bench.
Last Thursday, however, he appeared to avoid his wife’s gaze at times during testimony by Lucero Guadalupe Sánchez López, the woman who described herself as his “housewife.” She told jurors about an on-again, off-again relationship in 2011-2013 between the then 20-something mistress and the man more than 30 years her senior.
She returned to the witness stand on Tuesday, testifying via Spanish language interpreters and providing additional incriminating testimony as a government witness.
Sánchez, now 29, told jurors she shared Guzmán’s bed, helped him buy hundreds of kilos of marijuana and joined her naked lover in escaping from a Mexican military squad through a Culiacán tunnel entered via a secret entrance under a bathtub.
She also provided additional incriminating testimony as a cooperating government witness. Sánchez identified a series of Sinaloa drug cartel safe houses in Culiacán where she said she’d trysted with Guzmán, including the scene of their daring escape.
She also testified that she used a fake identity to visit Guzmán in jail after his February 2014 capture, and also helped his associates arrange details of a previously planned cocaine shipment from Ecuador.
Defense attorney William Purpura tried to undermine Sánchez’s credibility when he cross-examined her. Was it really plausible that the alleged drug cartel chief would have entrusted drug purchases to a young and untested novice, he asked.
He also cited records that showed Sánchez initially told a federal prosecutor she did not know the specific type of drugs being shipped from Ecuador. Her account changed after she was arrested while trying to enter the U.S., and was arrested and charged with drug trafficking charges that could mean a long prison sentence.
“And it’s not until you’re called to testify against this man that you recall it must be cocaine?” Purpura asked, referring to the drug shipment.
“Yes,” replied Sánchez.
She was followed to the witness stand by Damaso Lopez Nuñez, a former Guzmán lieutenant facing a life prison term for narcotics trafficking. He also testified through Spanish interpreters.
Lopez said Guzmán confided that he’d staged the first of several prison escapes that won him global notoriety by hiding beneath dirty laundry in a cart wheeled by a friendly launderer.
He also testified about what he said was Guzmán’s personal role in a series of murders during a war with a rival Mexican drug gang that erupted in 2008. Along with the testimony, jurors were shown a grainy video of the alleged drug lord interrogating a handcuffed member of the rival gang and seeking information.
Prosecutors said they expect to conclude their evidence presentation late this week or by Monday morning. That is expected to set the stage for the answer to a much-asked question: Will Guzmán testify in his own defense — a decision that could extend the now more than two-month trial and subject him to questioning by prosecutors.
Guzmán’s defense team has made no public announcement. However, they included the defendant’s name on a list of potential witnesses given to prosecutors last week .