Defense lawyer: Government witnesses lied about El Chapo

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Defense lawyer: Government witnesses lied about El Chapo
In this courtroom sketch, Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, center, listens as a prosecutor delivers closing arguments during his trial, Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2019, in New York. Guzman was portrayed Wednesday in closing arguments at his U.S. trial as a ruthless Mexican drug lord who also became skilled at evading capture and escaping prison because he feared facing justice on American soil. (Elizabeth Williams via AP)

NEW YORK (AP) — A parade of cooperating witnesses who testified against Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman are habitual liars who even lied under oath on the witness stand, Guzman’s lawyer told jurors Thursday in closing arguments at a U.S. trial.

Prosecutors “expect you to ignore all the problems in their case,” attorney Jeffrey Lichtman said in federal court in Brooklyn. “They expect you to ignore the dishonesty of their witnesses.”

The cooperators, he added, “have lied to your faces.”

The argument followed one by a prosecutor Wednesday who told jurors that the evidence against Guzman at a trial that began in mid-November is overwhelming. The jury is expected to begin deliberating Monday.

In his closing, Lichtman singled out an allegation by a cooperator that Guzman had paid a million bribe to a Mexican president to call off a manhunt. He argued that made no sense since authorities still arrested his client and sent him to the U.S. in 2017 to face drug-trafficking charges.

Guzman “pays the bribe and gets hunted down like an animal,” he said. “Is that logical?”

The lawyer said it would make more sense that the bribe was paid by another Sinaloa boss, Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada, since he’s never been arrested. The defense has sought to portray Zambada as the true leader of the cartel.

The bribe allegation was made by Alex Cifuentes, a Colombian trafficker who admitted on cross-examination that he had a history of lying to everyone around him, except when it came to his testimony about Guzman, Lichtman said.

“Who could believe that garbage?” the lawyer said.