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Bank Beat

Freedom of Information

As El Chapo Guilty in EDNY Bronx Mother Who Moved Drugs Got 90 Months In SDNY With Only One Media

By Matthew Russell Lee, Periscope video, II III

FEDERAL COURTHOUSES, February 12 – A day before Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman was found guilty in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York on all counts of running a drug empire (for which HSBC got off with only a fine for its money laundering role), across the East River in the Southern District with no media present other than Inner City Press a Bronx mother of two was sentenced to 90 months in Federal prison for moving cocaine. She argued unsuccessfully that the cold and lack of visitors in lock-up pending sentencing militated for a lesser sentence. SDNY Judge Valerie Caproni said that conditions in the MCC where the defendant Marilyn Vargas had been were better than in the MDC in Brooklyn which had been left without heat, see below. Marilyn Vargas said guards told her she was "the property of the BOP," the Bureau of Prisons, and that no visits were allowed during the government shutdown. Judge Caproni said that the shutdown was not that long, a month or six weeks. She questioned where Vargas had been working between 2000 and 2014, and why she had been driving a Lexus when caught "red handed" with twenty kilograms of cocaine. Vargas' lawyer replied that it was a used Lexus, in someone else's name. It was to no avail. Judge Caproni said Vargas seemed most sorry that she was caught, inferring from letters of support saying that Vargas has made a one-time mistake that Vargas had no come clean to her friends about the extend of her involvement in the drug trade. Vargas' two daughters, 30 and 19, were in the Thurgood Marshall courthouse proceeding. Vargas spoke before sentencing, near tears, citing her mother in Puerto Rico and desire to scare straight other single mothers in her Christian communities in The Bronx. While agreeing to recommend FCI Danbury, Judge Caproni went to the higher end of the sentencing guidelines, choosing 90 months from the range of 78 to 97 months. Marilyn Vargas was led out of the courtroom, her feet shackled. Inner City Press and the other attendees - no other journalists - were told to wait until Vargas was taken away on the elevator, seemingly with shackles re-applied to her wrists.  It stood in contrast to lighter sentences on corporate defendants, and impunity for diplomats and the UN as a whole. We'll have more on this. Back on February 5 when Judge Analisa Torres returned at 7:30 pm from the Brooklyn MDC to her courtroom in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, those assembled - six journalists, Federal Defenders, two named plaintiffs in tan prison guards - seemed to agree that something would happen, perhaps a ruling for a special master to oversee the MDC.

  Judge Torres asked both Federal Defenders' Dierdre Dionysia von Dornum and the FBI's John Ross to describe that they'd seen on the visit to the MDC with her, which Latitia James also accompanied (though no journalists, despite requests in written and orally in the court). Ms von Dornum said the lights were on and it was warmer, but still no medical treatment and few lawyers' visits. The expectation of a ruling for a special master grew.

  But when Judge Torres issued her ruling, it concerned the failure of the two inmates to take the standard and provide even "a shred of evidence" of their claims, that one would face retaliation and the other needed a transfer on medical groups. When it was offered that the testify now, past 8 pm, Judge Torres denied it, saying it was too late. An affidavit will be provided later but the moment was lost. The request for a special master, Judge Torres said, had been raised, and more appropriately, in the civil litigation in the Eastern District of New York - where, Inner City Press learned from a case participant who said "off the record" a meeting of all judges and the US Attorney took place, trying to solve "the whole situation." There was criticism of Nicole McFarland, of the continuing denial of medical treatment and timely lawyers' visits. But none of these were addressed much less solved on Tuesday night. Inner City Press retrieved its electronics, did a Periscope broadcast (here) and this story, from the stone chess (actually backgammon) table across Worth Street from the SDNY courthouse. We'll be here more.

Upcoming in the SDNY is a just-filed complaint by the Bangladesh Central Bank for the $81 million hacking of its funds, which were then wired through the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, a case that Inner City Press will cover. Times change. Watch this site.


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