Mexican drug cartel, the prosecution and the defense took turns interviewing the first ">Mexican drug cartel, the prosecution and the defense took turns interviewing the first ">
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Trial continues for accused Mexican drug cartel leader

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Posted at 2:48 PM, Jul 17, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-18 06:35:57-04

On the second day of the trial for a man who authorities say is a former leader of a Mexican drug cartel, the prosecution and the defense took turns interviewing the first witness.

The witness testified to being a former member of Los Zetas, a drug cartel court documents describe as a "powerful drug trafficking organization" and "one of the largest drug cartels operating in Mexico."

The trial began in Waco on Monday for Juan Francisco Treviño Chavez Jr., also known as "Kiko", who is charged with conspiracy to possess a controlled substance with the intent to distribute, conspiracy to possess firearms and laundering millions of dollars in drug profits.

Speaking through an interpreter, the witness described his work with the cartel transporting marijuana and cocaine into the United States and guns into Mexico for the cartel.

He said he brought loads into Mexico about 10 times, each with 50 to 80 guns.

The witness said he transported about one ton of marijuana from Mexico to San Antonio that would be later distributed to Dallas and other cities for "Los Sobrinos," who were identified as Treviño Chavez and his brother.

On a chart drafted by the witness and the government, the witness was questioned on the rankings within the cartel. The witness identified Los Sobrinos as the leaders of Los Zetas in 2013.

Speaking mainly through information the witness was given from other leaders in the organization, he detailed violence conducted by members of the cartel, including Los Sobrinos. An example he gave was the disappearance of a man named Lupe, who owned a ranch on the U.S. side of the border and allowed the witness to transport drugs through his land.

He said it was an unspoken rule not to ask questions about the disappearance of people who were dealing with Los Sobrinos.

The witness admitted that he has only seen Treviño Chavez one time in Piedras Negras. He said the two have never spoken or been introduced.

The witness described a time he was trying to bring 3,000 kilos of cocaine into the United States with the help of a woman identified as Sandra Espinosa. The witness said Sandra was storing the drugs at her home and would drive a trunk into the U.S. for him. In 2012, Sandra was stopped by border patrol, and the drugs were seized. 

He said members had to work to pay off debt if drugs are lost. He said he felt he needed to work for the cartel, so he wouldn't lose his family. 

In April 2013, the witness came to the U.S. on his own accord and turned himself into the Drug Enforcement Agency after an event he calls "the massacre." He said he felt guilty for providing weapons that killed his friends and innocent people.

The prosecution passed the witness to the defense around 10:55 a.m.

While being questioned by the defense, the witness admitted he is serving a 30-year sentence in a plea deal to testify for the government. The witness has already testified in one case, for which a motion to reduce his sentence was filed. The defense alleges the witness will have a second motion to reduce his sentence filed for testifying in this case, to which the witness denied.

The witness' family was also granted status in the U.S. due to the agreement.

Before breaking for lunch, there was a bit of back-and-forth between the prosecution, the defense and U.S. District Judge Alia Moses. 

After the witness confirmed members of the cartel each go by nicknames, the defense asked why a third man on the chart was identified as "Sobrino," meaning nephew, and not identified as one of the leaders in "Los Sorbinos." The witness repeatedly said this is because the man is his actual nephew, but the defense continued to allege more than two men were given the nickname "Sobrino." The prosecution objected to this claim, leading Judge Moses to eventually tell the men to "stop it" and get back to questioning.

The court took a recess for lunch and resumed at 1:30 p.m.

The witness was still being questioned after the court came back from recess. The defense questioned him a bit more, then he was released from the stand.

The second witness was called to the stand shortly after. The second witness testified that he was a part of the drug seize that Sandra was stopped for. He said the agency seized 19 blocks of cocaine, about 46 pounds, that were found in the vehicle.

The drugs were then taken to a forensic lab in Laredo.

The prosecution then asked the witness about the drugs he has seized and the people who were stopped. The witness said he has interviewed several juveniles and adults who were used to transport drugs.

He said after interviewing the juveniles, he concluded that they were used because juveniles could only be detained for a certain number of days.

The defense then took over and began questioning the witness.

They asked the witness if he had personal knowledge of the information he provided to the court, or if it was hear-say. The witness said he personally interviewed all the juveniles who were detained.

The defense rephrased the question, and Judge Moses said it was asked and answered. The witness was released from the stand.

The third witness took the stand shortly after. The prosecution provided several exhibits stating that she had the final report on the drugs that were seized from Sandra’s vehicle and taken to the forensic lab in Laredo.

She said she was not the original handler but redid the examination of the drugs that were detained from the vehicle. After the prosecution showed evidence of one of the blocks of drugs to the court, she was asked to explain how she tested the drugs.

She testified that she took samples from the original handler and conducted her own examination. After examining the drugs, she said the testing was positive for cocaine.

The prosecution asked if she looked at the original handler’s notes on the drugs. She, again, said no, she completed her own examination and said it was consistent with the original, it was cocaine.

The defense did not cross-examine the witness, and she was released from the stand.

The court took a short recess before the prosecution called their next witness.

The fourth witness took the stand after recess. He admitted to being convicted for narcotics trafficking in Waco. He said he was arrested and given four years, about 51 months. He said it was his only felony conviction.

He admitted to cooperating with the government in September 2010 to lower his sentence, and it was lowered.

The prosecution asked him what his role was in drug trafficking. He said he moved drugs from Laredo, Dallas and Waco. He told the prosecution that he began by just wrapped marijuana, and then graduated to moving drugs.

The prosecution then showed him several exhibits of different people involved as well. He admitted that he knew every person the prosecution showed him.

The prosecution then asked the witness to identify each person by their name or alias and explain what their role was. The witness answered each question and identified each person.

The prosecution asked the witness if he knew “Kiko” and how he knew him. The witness said he did know "Kiko” they met a couple of times in the past. The prosecution then asked when, where and what the conversations were when he was around "Kiko.” He said he only saw him at clubs, he was there and saw him with other people drinking.

The prosecution spent a lot of time asking the witness about how he knew "Kiko,” but the witness kept telling them he doesn’t remember much because they were all drinking.

The prosecution then asked if he sees "Kiko” in the court, and the witness said yes. He described what “Kiko” was wearing and told the prosecution that Treviño Chavez was him.

The prosecution asked no further questions, and the defense began questioning the witness.

The defense first asked how many times he has testified in other cases before. The witness said this was his fourth time testifying in a case. The defense asked if the prosecution made any deals with him to testify the way the prosecution wanted him to. He said no. The defense asked the witness if the prosecution made a deal with him to grant him citizenship.

The witness said that he is a citizen of the United States and, again, said he did not make a deal with the prosecution.

The defense spent a lot of time asking what the witness’ role in trafficking drugs was. He said he and two other members would sell to customers in Dallas, Laredo and Waco. He was asked how much a pound of marijuana would cost at that time. He said around $380-400.

The defense went on with questioning about how much the drugs would go for and who the witness would sell to and for how much. The witness gave the same answers to each of the questions.

The defense had no more questions, and he was released from the stand.

Judge Moses released the court for a short recess before questioning the next witness.

When recess was over, the prosecution called their fifth witness of the day to the stand. The witness admitted to being arrested and served time in prison. He also admitted to cooperating with the government for a shorter sentence.

The prosecution asked the witness to explain his role and he said he owned stash houses. The prosecution asked him to explain what the purpose of those houses were for and he said to store, process and ship drugs.

The witness admitted to owning one house and renting another in someone else’s name. He said the reason he did not have the houses in his name was for safety concerns.

The prosecution asked him who he worked with and he said he worked with a couple of people including a man named "Kiko.” The witness said he did not know any of the people he worked with by their names, just aliases.

When the prosecution asked the witness if “Kiko” was in the courtroom, he looked around and said he did not see "Kiko.”

The witness was asked to explain how he knew “Kiko” and what services he needed from the witness. He said "Kiko” needed to use his stash house to store marijuana there to be shipped. The witness said in one instance, “Kiko” had a last-minute product that needed to be prepared fast.

He said it went to the stash house and the prosecution showed exhibits asking if the products in the picture were from "Kiko.” The witness said yes, they were from "Kiko.”

The prosecution had no more questions, and the defense began questioning him.

Once the defense had no further questions the witness was released from the stand.

Judge Moses dismissed the court for the day.

Day three of the trial is set to begin at 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday.

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