There are 1,315,561 lawyers in the United States today, and a large percentage of them are defense lawyers. However, only a few of these lawyers can get national attention when they’re picked to represent a case with global repercussions.
Lawyers like Jeffrey Lichtman and Marc Fernich, who have been chosen by Mexican drug lord Joaquín Guzmán Loera to defend him. The infamous drug lord, better known as El Chapo, has been gathering a team of elite criminal defense lawyers to handle his case as he faces a potential life sentence.
Included in this crack-team of defense lawyers is William Purpura and Eduardo Balearezo, who have represented suspects in other high-profile drug cases. But Lichtman was the real attention getting name — he’s the same lawyer that kept the son of one of New York’s most well-known mobsters out of prison.
Jeffrey Lichtman was part of the legal team that helped get John “Junior” Gotti acquitted in 2005 on a $25 million securities fraud charge. He also got the mobster’s son dismissed of three murder conspiracy charges.
According to an email to the press, Lichtman confiremd that he and the other lawyers had been hired for El Chapo’s case.
“The man has been convicted in the court of public opinion times 100, but it doesn’t mean he’s guilty of the crimes that he’s been charged with,” Lichtman told the New York Times.
Lichtman said that his client had been confined in what he called “horrific” conditions since he was extradited from Mexico to New York. Adding that “he’s still a human being and still deserves his rights.”
The defense team has not yet filed an official notice of appearance for the court, as they’re waiting for the assurances that their legal fees are not being seized as part of the $14 billion in possible drug profits. The money is being sought by the government as part of repayment for the drug lord’s alleged crimes against the country.
Those crimes include implications in thousands of deaths, gun running, drug trafficking, and conspiracy charges. If convicted, it is likely that Guzman will spend the rest of his life in a U.S. prison. So far, the drug lord has escaped prison twice in his native country of Mexico.
Public defenders Michelle Gelernt, Michael Schneider, and Edward Zas asked the judge to set a deadline for the government to decide if they’ll be seizing the funds that will allow Guzman to pay his legal fees. So far, a date has not been given.