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Unsealed documents from El Chapo trial show efforts to limit testimony

Newly unsealed documents from the U.S. trial of Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman detail the behind-the-scenes efforts by prosecutors to keep out evidence potentially damaging to their witnesses and embarrassing to the government, including beliefs in mysticism, sex with minors and secret deals with drug enforcement agents.

U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan mostly barred defense attorneys from cross-examining the witnesses on the material at a trial that ended last month with the conviction of the Mexico’s most notorious narco on drug and murder conspiracy charges. The judge agreed to unseal documents about it once the trial was over at the request of The New York Times and Vice News.

The filings were unsealed late Thursday. The U.S. attorney’s office declined to comment Friday, and there was no immediate comment from the defense team.

A previous batch of documents unsealed in early February were the first to reveal previous statements by a key government cooperator who told authorities Guzman had him drug girls as young as 13 before the Sinaloa cartel boss had sex with them at one of his Mexican hideouts in the late 2000s. Guzman has denied through his lawyers that it ever happened.

The allegations could have hurt the government case in the eyes of the jury because the same witness, Colombian drug-trafficker Alex Cifuentes, admitted to sex with minors, as well. In the newly unsealed documents, prosecutors told the judge the “highly salacious details of sexual activity” were irrelevant to the case.

The government also argued against cross-examination of Cifuentes on “his extracurricular interests in the Illuminati, Freemasonry, other planets, other galaxies, UFOs and the idea that there was an impending apocalypse in 2012” – evidence that the defense wanted to use to suggest he was “mentally unstable.” Its papers say “the use of witchcraft and sorcery was not uncommon in Mexico in 2011, which is in and around the time that (Cifuentes) was availing himself of similar services.”

The documents showed how prosecutor vigorously sought to keep the defense from challenging Vicente Zambada, son of cartel boss Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada, about his claims that he had been working for the Drug Enforcement Administration as a confidential informant even as he was smuggling cocaine. In exchange for inside information on the cartel, he had been promised immunity from prosecution, according to his lawyers.

Prosecutors, who worked closely with the DEA on the case, insisted Zambada’s claims “do not bear on the issues at this trial” and “risk unfair prejudice and confusion of the issues.”

Guzman is set to be sentenced on June 25. He faces a mandatory life sentence.

(Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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