In the months leading up to the trial of Genaro García Luna, the highest-ranking Mexican law enforcement official ever to face charges of narco-corruption in the United States, federal prosecutors made it sound like they had a mountain of evidence. Court filings described more than 1.2 million pages of documents, thousands of recordings, and a roster of cooperating witnesses who could potentially testify about delivering multi-million dollar bribes.
But now, with opening arguments in the trial set to start Monday, the high-stakes case hardly seems like a slam dunk. In a ruling handed down Thursday evening, Judge Brian Cogan—who also presided over the trial of Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán—delivered a blow the prosecution, restricting some types of evidence from being heard by the jury and revealing the names of several likely cooperating witnesses, some of whom appear to have major credibility issues.
Cogan’s ruling, first reported by VICE News, referenced cooperators (former high-ranking cartel members who cut deals with U.S. prosecutors to testify in exchange for reduced sentences) who were allegedly involved in acts of cannibalism, along with another who has expressed beliefs in aliens, witchcraft, and the Illuminati.
The judge also granted a request by the defense to block evidence of García Luna’s “expensive lifestyle” after he left the Mexican government in 2012 and moved to Miami, where he worked as a private security consultant, lived in a waterfront mansion, had access to a yacht, and enjoyed other trappings of luxury. Cogan ruled that prosecutors had so far failed to present any proof that García Luna’s lifestyle was “financed with cartel money.”
García Luna’s attorneys, Cogan said, will be allowed to show the jury photographs of the defendant meeting with high-level U.S. officials during his time leading the Mexican equivalent of the FBI from 2000 to 2006, and later during his tenure as Mexico’s secretary of public security, which ended when he left office in 2012. The defense has said García Luna interacted with former President Barack Obama, ex-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and the late Sen. John McCain, along with former directors of the CIA, FBI, and DEA, among others.
On the flipside, Cogan ruled that the defense will not be allowed to tell the jury about all the ways top U.S. officials have publicly praised García Luna over the years. To present that evidence, Cogan said, García Luna would have to call the officials—who are now presumably less effusive in their praise now that he’s under indictment—to “testify as character witnesses,” which would then make them subject to cross-examination by the government.