Judge says no to El Chapo hugging his wife at trial

NEW YORK — A judge says the Mexican drug lord known as “El Chapo” can’t hug his wife at his upcoming U.S. trial.

Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman has been denied contact with his wife as a security measure imposed since he was brought to New York City to face drug conspiracy charges.

Defense lawyers had asked U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan for what they called a “humanitarian gesture” of allowing the hug on Tuesday before opening statements.

The judge said in an order Thursday he was sympathetic to the request and praised Guzman for good conduct under the difficulties of solitary confinement.

But he said other defendants who are considered high-security risks wouldn’t be granted the favor, and that he wouldn’t make an exception.

Jury selection for the Mexican drug lord was completed Wednesday. A jury of seven women and five men are to hear opening statements Tuesday in the drug-conspiracy case against Guzman in federal court in Brooklyn.

Guzman has pleaded not guilty to charges accusing him of overseeing a drug cartel known for violence and for breaking him out of Mexican jails.

The notoriety has prompted security measures that include keeping the jurors anonymous. Guzman also has been held in solitary confinement and barred from seeing his wife out of concerns he could pass messages to his cohorts.

Most of the people picked either for the jury or to serve as six alternates said in initial screening that they had heard of Guzman through news reports or TV shows. They include a man and a woman said they are fluent in Spanish and a man who’s a retired corrections officer.

The judge put off swearing in the jurors until next week out of concern some still might try to duck duty for a trial expected to last into next year. He told lawyers that one of the jurors, after learning she was picked, wept while privately telling him she was afraid of the unwanted attention she would get if it was found out she was on the panel.

The woman was kept on after defense attorney Jeffrey Lichtman argued that dismissing her would set the precedent that jurors could get out service “with a few tears.”

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