Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman will be tried in US in April 2018

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U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan ruled Thursday, May 4, 2017, that Guzman needs to stay in solitary confinement at a New York City lockup to keep him from trying to control his drug-trafficking empire from behind bars.

A USA judge on Friday set an April 2018 trial date for Mexican drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman on charges he oversaw a multibillion-dollar worldwide drug trafficking operation responsible for murders and kidnappings.

Cogan also flatly denied a request by Guzman - who twice escaped from prisons in Mexico - to have his "special administrative measures" lifted in full or for him to be moved out of solitary confinement.

Emma Coronel, 27, is the mother of Guzman's twins.

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A lawyer for Guzman had no immediate comment.

In another rule change, Guzman is also allowed to send pre-screened messages to other family members about getting lawyers and the money to hire them.

Guzman is restricted to his cell for 23 hours a day, with the lights on at all times, and has not been allowed to speak to his wife or other family members. The defense asked for this change, saying they have 10,000 pages of discovery to go over and otherwise must hold up each page to the acrylic glass while meeting with Guzman. He returns to court Friday.

Guzman's defence have argued that the conditions at the jail have hindered his health, causing him breathing problems and auditory hallucinations.

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Cogan ruled that Guzman may not communicate with witnesses, citing his 'alleged history of witness intimidation'. The judge similarly allowed his defenders' pre-cleared investigator to visit without an attorney present. Those messages will be subject to pre-screening by US authorities.

Guzman, 59, has been held in solitary confinement conditions at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan since he was extradited from Mexico in January to face charges of running the Sinaloa Cartel, a violent cocaine smuggling enterprise.

Cogan also wrote that prison staff had relayed their observations of Guzman's visits with his attorneys to prosecutors in the past, and ordered that such communications stop.

The 17-count indictment filed in the Eastern District of NY against Guzman alleges that between 1989 and 2014, Guzman, as the leader of the Sinaloa drug cartel, ran a "criminal enterprise responsible for importing into the United States and distributing massive amounts of illegal narcotics and for conspiring to murder people who posed a threat to the narcotics enterprise", according to a Department of Justice statement. If convicted, he is likely to spend the rest of his life in a maximum security United States prison.

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