Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Genaro García Luna’s sentencing in US delayed until September

A federal judge in the United States has agreed to postpone the sentencing of former security minister Genaro García Luna, who was convicted on drug trafficking charges in February.   

Judge Brian M. Cogan of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York granted defense lawyers’ request for a three-month adjournment for posttrial motions and the sentencing of their client, who was Mexico’s security minister in the 2006–2012 government led by former president Felipe Calderón and head of the now-defunct Federal Investigation Agency before that.

US federal judge Brian M. Cogan granted García Luna’s attorneys more time to pursue new evidence leads that could support planned motions requesting an acquittal and/or a new trial.

 

García Luna, who was found guilty of colluding with the notorious Sinaloa Cartel and lying to U.S. authorities, will now be sentenced on Sept. 27. He faces a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. 

Defense lawyers, including the ex-official’s lead attorney César de Castro, wrote to Cogan on Monday to request the postponement so as “to permit the defense to continue developing evidence in support of a potential Rule 33 motion.” 

Rule 33 in the U.S. Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure allows a court to grant a new trial “if the interest of justice so requires.” 

De Castro and his colleagues wrote that since the guilty verdict was reached on Feb. 21, “several individuals, including former law enforcement officials, have contacted us with potential new evidence favorable to the defense that could result in the filing of a Rule 33 motion in the short term.” 

US District Court, Eastern District of New York
Genaro, who remains in custody, was convicted in U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of New York, seen here. (Shutterstock)

“Following these numerous substantial leads, potentially filing a Rule 29 [acquittal] motion, and preparing for significant sentencing advocacy is too difficult,” they wrote. 

“Rather than proceed with Mr. García Luna’s sentencing and initiation of an appeal, which would divest the Court of jurisdiction to hear the motion until the Second Circuit granted a motion to remand the case to Your Honor … the appropriate use of resources would be to simply adjourn the dates as we request,” the letter continued. 

“After all, the government is not prejudiced in any way — Mr. García Luna is not at liberty and will remain detained.”

Under the new posttrial timeline, any application for a new trial must be submitted by July 7.

García Luna’s conviction in February came more than three years after he was arrested in Dallas, Texas, on charges that he allowed the Sinaloa Cartel to operate in exchange for multimillion-dollar bribes.  

A jury in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York found the former security minister guilty of engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise, international cocaine distribution conspiracy; cocaine distribution and possession conspiracy; cocaine importation conspiracy; and making a false statement on an application for U.S. citizenship. 

President Lopez Obrador with image of ex-security minister Genaro Garcia Luna
President López Obrador, seen here at a press conference on March 9, has used the García Luna trial to support his assertions that during the ex-security minister’s tenure under President Felipe Calderón, Mexico was a “narco-state.” (Galo Cañas Rodríguez/Cuartoscuro)

The unanimous decision came after an almost month-long trial that included damning testimony from cartel figures such as Jesús “El Rey” Zambada, brother of current Sinaloa Cartel leader Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada. 

President López Obrador has used the conviction to support his claim that Mexico was a “narco-state” during the presidency of Calderón. 

The former president has denied having any knowledge of García Luna’s criminal activities, and defended his integrity and crime-fighting record in a statement issued in response to the conviction of his security minister. 

De Castro asserted in his closing statement at the trial that the government’s lack of evidence against his client was “shocking.”

“They’re asking you to condemn a man solely on the words of some of the most notorious and ruthless criminals this world has ever seen,” he told the 12-person jury. 

With reports from Sin Embargo 

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