The US trial of Mexican drug baron Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman hit a roadblock Tuesday over allegations that his beauty queen wife had access to a banned cell phone and was using it to communicate with her husband.
Prosecutors demanded that the judge punish the defense for lending Emma Coronel a telephone, but he accepted explanations that she had used it for translation purposes only and deferred until next week any decision on sanctions.
In 15-page and heavily redacted document issued overnight Monday, the US government accused the 29-year-old of using a cell phone to communicate via one of the defense lawyers with her husband, from whom she is banned from any direct contact.
Guzman is subjected to the strictest inmate security protocols in the United States, after twice escaping from prison in Mexico and has been held in solitary confinement since being extradited to New York in January 2017.
Judge Brian Cogan, who is presiding over the trial, has taken the security precautions so seriously that he prohibited the couple from embracing before opening statements began on November 13.
Prosecutors complained that Coronel had access to a phone last week, but on Tuesday the judge ruled that, as she no longer did, the issue of sanctions would be addressed "sometime next week."
Lawyers are the only people permitted to take cell phones into the Brooklyn federal court house where 61-year-old Guzman is on trial. Coronel was said to be using the phone while sitting next to a lawyer in the cafeteria.
On Monday, lawyers twice objected to the judge and the defense that Coronel -- the mother of Guzman's seven-year-old twin daughters -- had been using a cell phone inside the court house.
Prosecutors fear that not only could she be using the device to communicate with her husband, but to film a protected witness whose security they have sought to shield at all costs.
Guzman is accused of smuggling drugs into the United States over a quarter of a century, and is likely to spend the rest of his life behind bars in a maximum security US jail if convicted.
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