Sean Penn’s meeting with notorious Mexican drug lord Joaquín Guzmán Loera, appeared to tread a legally thin line between working as a “journalist” and aiding and abetting a dangerous fugitive, especially if the actor and director was trying to score a film deal.
Guzmán was one of the world’s most wanted fugitives, both in the United States and Mexico, until his arrest on Friday (Jan. 8).
He’s twice escaped jail and was a fugitive when Penn met him in a jungle clearing for a Rolling Stone magazine article. Penn was accompanied by Kate del Castillo, a Mexican actress who sympathizes with Guzmán and his Sinaloa drug cartel.
Del Castillo, for one, says she believes more in El Chapo than the Mexican government.
What makes Penn’s visit sketchy is the fact that Guzmán has reportedly been trying to put together a movie deal about his life. If Penn was also on a mission to broker a deal for a picture, that could be construed as aiding and abetting a fugitive.
Mexican authorities said they caught Guzmán, in part, because he was trying to assemble actors and producers for a film. Guzmán, has been inundated with Hollywood offers, according to Penn. This is where the actor’s role gets murky.
Meeting with El Chapo and writing a puff piece in Rolling Stone would definitely give him a leg up against rivals for a film deal.
Penn said he learned about del Castillo’s connection to the drug lord and asked her if she could set up an interview, according to the article.
Rolling Stone magazine published this photo to substantiate that Sean Penn met with the Mexican drug lord known as El Chapo (Photo: Rolling Stone)[/caption]
If Penn used the interview as a cover to talk over a business deal, at the very least, that would be a serious breach of journalistic ethics, if not aiding and abetting a fugitive.
Rolling Stone said some names and locations were withheld and the article was submitted to Guzmán for his approval, The latter is a clear breach of journalistic ethics. The magazine declined further comment.
Relevant law in Mexico and the United States could cover any attempt to do business with Guzman.
Since the drug lord said he wanted to finance and film the project himself, Penn might also be construed as one of his business associates or even an employee.
Under U.S. law, “whoever commits an offense against the United States or aids, abets, counsels, commands, induces or procures its commission, is punishable as a principal.”
It can be argued that Penn was “counseling” a known fugitive in a business enterprise.
Mexican officials reportedly want to question Penn for failing to report his contact and share any information on the wanted man, according the Boston Herald. As a “journalist,” however, he would not be required to do so, at least under U.S. law.
El Chapo was captured in his home state of Sinaloa in northwest Mexico on Friday (Jan. 8) after a gun battle with the Mexican authorities, according to various published reports.
Beside being the self-professed king of heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana dealing, Guzman and the Sinaloa cartel have also been implicated in numerous murders.
Still, he told Penn, “Look, all I do is defend myself, nothing more. But do I start trouble? Never.”
Needless to say, Guzmán is a bit of a folk hero in Mexico and his home in Sinaloa, a state on Mexico’s West Coast and one of 32 federal districts that make up the country.
Guzmán reportedly spent seven hours with Penn for the interview in October, while still on the lam. Penn also continued to correspond with El Chapo by email, text messages and video.
The interview is believed to be the first by Guzmán in decades, according to The New York Times. It was published online Saturday night, along with a video portion of the interview.
Penn was taken to a jungle hideout atop at a mountain redoubt guarded by more than 100 cartel thugs, according to the article.
Guzman was flushed out of his hideout sometime after the meeting, but continued with the interview by BlackBerry Messenger and video.
Penn’s article is already proving embarrassing the Mexican government.
He writes that he was waved through a government checkpoint because the troops recognized Guzman’s son. Penn also wrote that he was tipped by a spy or spies when the government launched a surveillance plane.
“There is no question in my mind but that DEA and the Mexican government are tracking our movements,” Guzman told him, referring to the United States Drug Enforcement Administration. Mexican authorities reportedly were aware of the meeting, according to The Times.
Guzman is expected to be extradited to the United States. He will be tried for various crimes and faces a likely sentence of life in prison. His chances of escaping again would be next to zero in a federal maximum security prison.
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