Even after Genaro García Luna, the one-time architect of Mexico’s drug war, was found guilty last winter of stealing millions of dollars from the drug lords he was supposed to prosecute, one question that hung over his trial was how closely he had interacted with U.S. officials at the time he was allegedly taking bribes.
His lawyers offered a response Friday.
They filed judicial documents claiming that García Luna met with top American diplomats, law enforcement officers and intelligence officials more than 180 times from 2007 to 2012, during which time a New York grand jury found he had committed federal crimes.
While serving in the highest circles of Mexico’s national security establishment, court documents say, Mr. García Luna met 24 times with American ambassadors, eight times with the attorney general, 15 times with CIA officials and nearly 50 times the Drug Enforcement Administration. largely with the agency’s regional director.
The documents also say that both the DEA and CIA conducted extensive checks on Mr. García Luna and members of his staff and found no evidence of corruption.
“Mr. García Luna and his team have been extensively vetted and cleared of any wrongdoing by the United States government,” wrote lawyer César de Castro.
As de Castro added, “Surely the United States would not have shared sensitive intelligence and national security information for years with someone it did not trust.”
The documents, filed in federal district court in Brooklyn, were part of a request by Mr. de Castro to get a new trial for his client based on what he said was newly discovered evidence. After García Luna was found guilty in February, several witnesses came forward to help his defense, including some Mexicans who had remained silent during the trial “for fear of retaliation,” de Castro wrote.
Among the new evidence obtained by the defense, he said, were the daily schedules kept by García Luna’s aides while he served as Mexico’s secretary of public security, a powerful Cabinet-level position.
Mr. de Castro said he also got his hands on official documents signed by a senior DEA official and Mexico’s attorney general, documenting that “the United States government performed thorough background investigations” into Mr. García Luna and the his staff, which included lie detector tests.
Additionally, de Castro said, defense documents show that 25 officials working for García Luna were vetted by the CIA and trained in Washington, among other places, to monitor and analyze drug cartel activities and share their findings with the American authorities.
“The fact that members of his department are monitored and work for the CIA explains why the United States government entrusted Mr. García Luna with sensitive information and responsibility, despite rumors of corruption in the Mexican government,” the documents read.
Mr. de Castro claims that prosecutors improperly withheld some of these documents from him even though he had specifically requested them from the government nine months before the trial. “These materials would have been essential to the defense and could have led to a different outcome,” he wrote.
Mr. García Luna maintained his innocence during the trial.
Getting a new trial is a difficult feat, especially because judges are generally cautious about overturning a jury’s verdict. Mr. de Castro will likely face an uphill battle to convince Judge Brian M. Cogan, who oversaw Mr. García Luna’s trial, to grant a new one, even though court documents he submitted alleged that some government witnesses had lied in court for the first time.
The conviction of García Luna, the highest-ranking Mexican official tried in the United States on drug charges, was a significant moment in the history of the cross-border war against drug cartels. In Mexico, it was widely seen as a cathartic spectacle in which a top government official was finally held accountable for his many years of corruption.
Mexicans have long suspected that those at the highest levels of power are in cahoots with the same gangsters who have inflicted pain and suffering on their country for decades. The bitterness and disappointment have been heightened by the fact that, despite billions of dollars and decades of efforts by law enforcement on both sides of the border, violence in Mexico has reached new levels in recent years.
At first the García Luna trial seemed like it might shed light on the mystery of how a man who “was showered with praise from every corner of the law enforcement and political communities of the United States,” as de Castro wrote, could at the same time , received huge profits from the gangsters of the Sinaloa drug cartel, one of the most powerful drug mafias in Mexico.
But even though witnesses in Brooklyn included former cartel agents, former Mexican police officials and even a man who had once served as U.S. ambassador to Mexico, the question of what American officials knew about García Luna’s ties to the cartels was largely uncertain. left unresolved.
Prosecutors will now have to respond to Mr de Castro’s charges. Judge Cogan will then decide whether or not to grant a new trial in a trial that could last several weeks.