If the attorneys representing El Chapo, a.k.a. Joaquin Guzman, the infamous leader of the Sinaloa drug cartel, were overly concerned about getting paid, they may have wanted to think twice before accepting the representation. Getting paid has been an issue since the beginning of this representation.
According to recent reports, the alleged kingpin's lawyers haven't received any payments since the initial payment. That payment came from "friends" of Guzman. In order to get an additional payment, Guzman claimed that he needed to make a statement in open court to his "family." However, the court rejected this request due to the concern that Guzman would be sending a coded message via the statement.
El Chapo Allowed to Agree
While the court refused to allow Guzman to address his family in open court, it did allow him the opportunity to nod in agreement to the statements made by his attorney. Allegedly, the reason Guzman was asking to make the statement was due to the fact that his family did not trust his attorney's request for payment and that his letters have not been getting delivered.
Notably, Guzman is insisting on proceeding to trial, which is scheduled for September, but his attorneys need money not just for their fees, but also to help investigate the case and do trial prep. But getting those fees will likely be wrought with even more complications.
Getting Paid by the Infamous
When criminal defense attorneys take on high profile cases involving drug dealers or other crimes that produce illegal proceeds, getting paid can be a real hurdle. When assets get frozen, or are controlled by others who may, or may not, be connected with criminal activity, ethical issues abound, and the government could very well stick its nose into the who, why and how and how much.
In Guzman's case, his attorneys could certainly be walking that fine ethical line depending on how they are actually paid. And while there is nothing illegal about paying a lawyer in cash, massive cash payments may trigger the lawyer's ethical obligation to investigate as lawyers cannot be complicit (or participate) in money laundering schemes.