He famously tunneled out of prison — now notorious Mexican drug kingpin Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán wants to tunnel into a Manhattan courthouse.
Guzmán’s attorneys have asked a Brooklyn federal judge to move their client’s case to Manhattan’s Southern District, arguing it’s much more convenient for the reputed crime lord to shuffle 200 yards down an underground tunnel connecting the courthouse to his current abode, the Metropolitan Correctional Center in lower Manhattan.
To get to court these days, El Chapo is transported across the Brooklyn Bridge via motorcade, in a procession that closes the bridge and involves scores of marked and unmarked police cars, armored cars and other emergency response vehicles accompanying him.
Guzman’s trial on drug trafficking and other charges is expected to last four months.
“When you close the Brooklyn Bridge for that period of time, it creates a lot of attention,” defense attorney William Purpura told Brooklyn federal Judge Brian Cogan on Tuesday.
“We know what happened with Chris Christie when a lane closed down on another bridge,” Purpura added, referring to the politically motivated shutdown of traffic lanes feeding the George Washington Bridge in 2013 that came to be known as Bridgegate.
“No idea what you’re talking about,” Cogan quipped, before he declined to immediately rule on the motion for venue change.
Two of the then-New Jersey governor’s staffers were convicted in 2016 for their part in a lane closure scheme meant to embarrass a political rival. Christie denied any knowledge of the plot.
Guzmán made international headlines when he escaped from Mexican authorities a second time in 2015, scurrying through a 2-by-2-foot hole under his prison shower and into a mile-long tunnel equipped with a motorcycle on rails.
Cohan on Tuesday also declined to rule on another defense motion to suppress wiretaps.
Meanwhile, El Chapo’s lawyers gave their first hint at a defense strategy Tuesday, painting their client as merely a “middleman” in the Sinaloa Cartel instead of its bloodthirsty leader.
Defense attorney Eduardo Balarezo tried to get prosecutors to hand over the names of individuals who allegedly made exculpatory statements on behalf of El Chapo.
The statements, which have not been made public, purportedly demote Guzman from his perch as notorious kingpin to mere henchman.
“He was not the leader of the cartel,” the lawyer said. “He had to take orders from someone else.”
Guzmán spent the majority of the 30-minute hearing staring longingly at his beauty-queen wife, Emma Coronel Aispuro, and their twin daughters.
Balarezo also asked the judge to approve an appointment for his client with a psychiatrist, to ensure he’s on the correct dosages of medications during his confinement.
”The dosage literally knocks him out for a full day,” Balarezo said after the proceeding, noting that some of the meds are related to symptoms his client has developed while in custody.
Guzmán has complained of auditory hallucinations and mental deterioration since his extradition to the US in January 2017, citing the extreme conditions of his detention.
He’s due back in court Aug. 4.