Days after public defenders argued his case should be dismissed, Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman has said adios and hired a private legal team. Jeffrey Lichtman says Guzman has hired himself and Marc Fernich, who successfully defended the son of mafia boss John Gotti in a 2005 racketeering trial, along with two other lawyers who have experience defending drug kingpins, reports Reuters. Guzman—who faces drug, firearms, and conspiracy charges in the US—"is likely to be the challenge of Mr. Lichtman's legal career," reports the New York Times, citing an interview given to Sean Penn last year in which Guzman admitted, "I supply more heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana than anybody else in the world."
Lichtman counters that "whatever he said to Sean Penn, I don't know that it suggests he did anything wrong in the Eastern District of New York," where Guzman's charges have been filed. More than 40 witnesses are set to testify against Guzman, who was previously convicted of drug trafficking and spent time in and escaped from two high-security prisons in Mexico. But Lichtman, referring to "numerous cooperating criminals who will all be seeking to use him as their Get Out of Jail Free cards," suggests they may not be credible. Lichtman raised one other issue: The conditions in which Guzman is kept in Manhattan's federal jail "are the most horrific I've ever seen," he says. "Terrorists at Guantanamo Bay have it easier than this guy does."