BY NANCY DILLON | NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
NEW YORK — Drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman is blowing smoke about his harsh prison conditions and might be trying to organize another jailbreak, prosecutors suggest in a new court filing.
In a letter to the judge who oversaw Guzman’s recent conviction for running the Sinaloa drug cartel, Brooklyn-based federal prosecutors said the cocaine kingpin is being treated fairly and should be denied the earplugs, unlimited commissary access and outdoor recreation time he requested two weeks ago.
They said Guzman’s request for open-air exercise should be rejected because the rooftop recreation area of the lower Manhattan’s Metropolitan Correctional Center where he’s currently housed was the scene of an attempted jailbreak in 1981.
During that incident, an inmate’s cohorts hijacked a sightseeing helicopter, flew it over the recreation area and attempted to cut through the wire screening, prosecutors said.
When that didn’t work, they rammed the helicopter into the screen and dropped a pistol to one of the inmates, they said.
That escape plot ultimately was foiled, but Guzman has succeeded in the past where others have failed, staging “elaborate escapes” from two high-security prisons in Mexico, prosecutors said.
“One of the defendant’s escapes involved the construction of a sophisticated, ventilated tunnel that stretched for over a mile,” they wrote. “Certainly, an escape via rooftop, using a helicopter, or any related means would be elementary by comparison.”
They argued that Guzman already has access to “several different types of exercise equipment, including an exercise bike and elliptical, and a vented window that provides the defendant with access to fresh, outdoor air and sunlight,” and that should be adequate.
They said Guzman should be denied earplugs because they could be used “as a ruse to ignore, or pretend not to hear, the guards’ orders.”
And Guzman, 62, doesn’t qualify for unfettered commissary access because he’s a high-risk inmate who might try to fashion a weapon out of an otherwise mundane item, they wrote.
As an example, the U.S. attorney in Brooklyn reminded the judge that an inmate held at the same prison back in November 2000 stabbed a guard in the eye with a plastic comb sharpened into a shiv.
Prosecutors said prison officials have addressed Guzman’s gripes when possible, allowing him to buy bottled water and providing him with an approved commissary list in Spanish.
They said his “remaining requests cannot be granted due to safety concerns.”
U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan did not immediately rule on the custody kerfuffle.
Guzman is expected to receive life without parole at his June 25 sentencing in Brooklyn Federal Court.