JOH is sentenced to 45 years in prison in New York for drug trafficking 

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By LatAm Reports Staff Writers

The former president of Honduras was singled out to favor corruption and has been sentenced for participating in the transfer of 400 tons of cocaine to the United States.

On Wednesday, the U.S. justice sentenced the former president of Honduras, Juan Orlando Hernández, to 45 years in prison, after being found guilty of drug and arms trafficking on March 8.

At a hearing in New York, Judge Kevin Castel sentenced Hernandez, 55 – who was president in two consecutive terms from 2014 to 2022-, to a $8 million fine and five years of probation when he served his sentence. The judge urged Hernandez’s lawyer to clarify in two weeks how he will pay the fine.

The penalty is slightly higher than the minimum stipulated – 40 years for the three counts – but less than the life sentence requested by the prosecution.

Juan Orlando Hernández’s role was to use his political power as president of Congress and as president of Honduras to limit the risk of drug traffickers in exchange for money, the judge said when reading the sentence.

“No one is above the law, neither are the presidents,” said prosecutor Jacob Gutwilling.

Hernandez heard the sentence of Judge Castel, who was very hard in his argument, in a crowded room of Hondurans who approached the court of the southern district of Manhattan to attend this historic day.

In addition, the judge said he will decide in 120 days what will be the prison where Hernández, who is currently in Brooklyn prison, will be served.

In his speaking time, Hernandez attacked the “selective justice of the prosecutors,” which based his accusation – on testimonies – of drug traffickers interested in obtaining benefits in return for their prison situation and did not present any evidence.

“I am innocent and I was unjustly accused,” said the former president, who arrived in the courtroom walking with a cane due to an accident playing football, according to his lawyer.

“I appeal to common sense: they (the drug dealers) who testified at the trial are going to be free and I’m imprisoned for life, he said after pointing out that this undermines the credibility of the U.S. judicial system.

The former president, who in 2021 told AFP that at the end of his term of office he would retire to write his memoirs, showed an image of serenity before his process.

Judge Castel told Hernandez that he was a two-sided man: with one he proclaimed his commitment to drug trafficking, and with the other he facilitated the export of tons of cocaine to the United States. Photo EDH/ agencies

A two-faced man.

Before sentencing, Judge Castel told Hernandez that he was a two-sided man: with one he proclaimed his commitment to drug trafficking, and with the other he facilitated the export of tons of cocaine to

The United States, a drug worth $10 million, he added.
In addition, he proclaimed that this sentence – if he complies fully he will leave prison at 100 years – sent a message to the educated and well-dressed so that they do not believe that they will be freed from the accusations.

Hernandez, who was very old, with gray hair and a gray beard, in addition to a cane from which he did not take off, heard the sentence without almost immuting, perhaps because he is closer to the one who asked for his defense (40 years) than to the perpetuity requested by the Prosecutor’s Office.

Bad taste.

Among the Hondurans who were at the entrance, about twenty with flags of their country, there were no apparent celebrations, perhaps because they were expecting a greater conviction.

Outside the court, Hondurans who gathered with their country’s flags and photos of the fatalities of the JOH government were disappointed with the sentence and described Castel as too benevolent.

In addition, they complained that this case could set a negative precedent in Honduras, since, according to them, it is suggested to other politicians that committing this type of crime comes out of it.

For Honduran human rights activist Lida Perdomo, the sentence leaves a bad taste, since she considers it to be a “short” for this “dangerous” politician, whose criminal structures, both within the judiciary, the police and the military are still quite alive – in the country. I was hoping he’d be given at least two life sentences.

Hernández has used an extensive political trajectory in which, taking advantage of the various public positions he has held, he formulated a large-scale structural system of corruption, said the NGO National Anti-Corruption Council.

A woman waits in front of posters demanding justice during a hearing against former Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez on Wednesday outside the Manhattan federal court in New York. Photo EDH/ agencies

In the morning, a hundred Hondurans lined up to witness the sentence in person, arguing that they wanted to see how justice was done.

Some waited outside the court from three o’clock in the morning, as is the case of Cristi Rubí, who traveled from Iowa to the Big Apple, or Gloria Maldonado, who said that even three life sentences were few for JOH.

Alan Martinez, who moved to New York in 2002, pointed out how sad – this type of criminal is that in Honduras, this type of criminals do not face the law, but said he was glad that in the United States he is duly judged.

Cristina, a woman who lived in Honduras during JOH’s first term, was critical of this point of view and pointed out that here a person who leaves a desolate picture in the country is judged, so in the end it pays for citizenship.

Defense will appeal

His defense attorney, Renato Stabile, announced at the end of the hearing that he will appeal the sentence for the ultimate aim of eitherwing the sentence – and to hold a new trial, as he had unsuccessfully claimed so far.

With a somewhat lost look and the serious countenance, lawyer Renato Stabile expressed his dissatisfaction to the press and pointed out that the sentence is not a victory, so they will appeal it to try to get a new trial.

I don’t think there’s a reduction in sentence, we want there to be a new trial. (JOH) believes that in a new trial he would be found innocent, Stabile said.

From today, the defence has a period of 14 days to communicate to the Court its decision to appeal. Stabile clarified that it will be a long process for which JOH is mentally prepared.

This article has been translated after first appearing in El Salvador