Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Former drug lord Benjamín Arellano Félix seeks early release from prison. The Fed said no way.

Benjamín Arellano Félix, once one of Mexico’s most powerful drug lords, wants to get out of jail.

After 11 years in prison for 25 years, Arellano petitioned a federal judge in San Diego for “compassionate release.”

His motion, filed on April 25, remains sealed. But on Tuesday, federal prosecutors filed a 19-page response digging into Arellano’s reasoning and continuing to argue why it was a bad idea.

Arellano, 68, cited the risk of contracting COVID-19 in prison as the main reason for his request for a reduced sentence, the court said, while also saying he had served “sufficient” time in prison for his crimes. Record.

That decision will ultimately be up to the judge.

Arellano’s rise as a drug lord and his family’s control of the lucrative Tijuana smuggling corridors in the 1990s are now part of the drug lord legend.

The Arellano brothers were major traffickers of cocaine and marijuana, and later cheap methamphetamine, into the United States. They initially operated as part of a coalition of trafficking groups, but some of those business relationships turned sour. The resulting turf war was a particularly bloody chapter in Tijuana’s history.

Arellano was arrested in Mexico in 2002 and extradited to Santiago in 2011. He pleaded guilty to racketeering and money laundering charges and agreed to forfeit $100 million as part of the deal.

On request, he admitted to being the head of the Arellano Félix group and using violence – from kidnappings to murders – to advance the cartel’s interests.

He is now serving time at a high-security federal prison in Lee County, Virginia.

Judges can reduce the sentence if they find “extraordinary and compelling reasons” and as long as the person is not deemed dangerous. Typical reasons include old age, terminal illness or “extraordinary and compelling” family circumstances.

Prosecutors argue that Arellano did not meet those standards. He was being treated in prison for high blood pressure and had been vaccinated against COVID-19 and boosted, they said.

Prosecutors argued that “the court’s assessment should be based on the prevailing scientific view that vaccination makes the risk of severe illness from COVID-19 extremely rare.”

The gravity of Arellano’s crimes also opposes early release, according to prosecutors.

“Defendant ran an international drug cartel. As the leader of that organization, defendant oversaw the entry of tons of drugs into the United States and directed numerous kidnappings and murders to fuel the cartel,” prosecutors said. “On the contrary, there is nothing in the defendant’s history and characteristics to justify, excuse or mitigate his egregious conduct.”

After receiving Arellano’s motion, U.S. District Judge Larry Burns ordered the federal public defender’s office to review the motion and related documents to determine whether he should be appointed defense attorney. On May 27, a public defender wrote to the judge that, after reviewing the material, no lawyer is currently recommended.

The chances of Arellano being released early seem slim.

When the same judge handed down Arellano in 2012, he denied a request for five years of credit for having served in Mexico.

“A 25-year sentence is perfectly reasonable,” Burns said at the time. “If I were within my powers, I would have given a longer sentence.”

Brother Francisco Javier Arellano Felix was sentenced to life in prison for running the cartel, but his sentence was later reduced to 23.5 years for his cooperation while in custody. Another brother, Eduardo Arellano Félix, was deported in August after serving most of his 15-year sentence in the United States and was quickly re-arrested in Mexico.

US News.

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