May 31 (UPI) – Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán’s lawyers have accused federal prosecutors in Brooklyn of secretly communicating with the judge appointed to the case while keeping the Mexican drug lord’s defense uninformed.

The lawyers said prosecutors are using secret document submissions, referred to as ex-parte submissions, to communicate with federal Judge Brian M. Cogan, which they argue “violates Mr. Guzman’s right to due process, a public trial, and effective assistance of counsel, and threatens to undermine the integrity of these proceedings.”

Guzmán’s lawyers asked Cogan to rule that the government must provide Guzmán with a summary or redacted documents related to their past and future communications with him.

The federal prosecutors said they have used ex-parte submissions at least four times since Guzmán’s extradition from Mexico to the United States in January. Guzman’s lawyers argue that the prosecutors used the submissions to limit Guzmán’s interactions with his wife and defense team.

“While ex-parte submissions may be a common part of the government’s practice, courts have
long recognized that it is a ‘dangerous procedure’ when the government has ‘private access to the ear of the court,'” the lawyers wrote.

Guzmán has pleaded not guilty to 17 criminal charges related to his drug empire — including corruption, murder, conspiracy, drug importation and money laundering. His trial is set for April 2018.

Guzmán’s Sinaloa Cartel dominated the illegal drug market in most of the United States. “El Chapo” — meaning “The Short One” or “shorty” — so dubbed because of his 5-foot-6-inch frame, was detained in Guatemala in 1993 and then extradited to Mexico to face murder and drug-trafficking charges.

He escaped from prison in 2001 by hiding in a laundry cart after bribing prison guards, and was recaptured in February 2014. He was captured a second time in the city of Los Mochis in his home state of Sinaloa on Jan. 8 after escaping from Mexico’s Altiplano Federal Prison on July 11, 2015. Mexico extradited Guzmán to the United States on Jan. 19.

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