‘El Chapo’ lawyers say jail conditions are too strict in NYC

FILE - In this Jan. 8, 2016, file image released by Mexico's federal government, Mexico's most wanted drug lord, Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, stands for his prison mug shot with the inmate number 3870 at the Altiplano maximum security federal prison in Almoloya, Mexico. Emma Coronel, the common-law wife of Guzman said Monday, Feb. 29. 2016, that his health problems have gotten “a lot worse” because guards at a maximum security prison rouse him for head counts, interfering with his sleep. (Mexico's federal government via AP)

NEW YORK (AP) — He’s locked up 23 hours a day. His wife can’t visit him. He can’t call anyone, except his lawyers. He even was denied water, his lawyers say.

The strict jail conditions for notorious Mexican drug lord and escape artist Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman were outlined on Friday by defense attorneys in a failed bid to get a judge to loosen them.

Guzman smiled at his common-law wife, Emma Coronel, as he was led into the Brooklyn courtroom under heavy guard by deputy U.S. marshals at his second court appearance since being brought to the United States on Jan. 19.

“This was so far the only way she has been able to see him,” defense attorney Michelle Gelernt said afterward with a silent Coronel at her side.

Guzman, 59, has pleaded not guilty to charges of running a massive drug trafficking operation that laundered billions of dollars and oversaw murders and kidnappings. He’s being held at a high-security federal jail in Manhattan, with U.S. officials mindful of how he twice escaped from prison in Mexico, the second time via a mile-long tunnel dug to the shower in his cell.

Defense lawyers complained to U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan on Friday that the restrictions make it difficult for him to make decisions with them about how to fight the charges. They claimed his jailers are so zealous, they denied him water during a recent meeting with the defense team.

“I don’t think there’s any thought that if I have the guards give him a glass of water during a three-hour meeting that somehow that’s going to effectuate his escape,” Gelernt told reporters outside court.

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