NEW YORK (AP) — Former Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández is hoping three American presidents can rescue him from U.S. criminal charges alleging he accepted millions of dollars from drug traffickers funneling drugs to the United States, his lawyer said Tuesday.
Attorney Raymond Colon told reporters outside Manhattan federal court Tuesday that he plans to subpoena President Joe Biden and former presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump. He said Biden and Obama, both Democrats, along with Trump, a Republican, could vouch for Hernandez.
Hernandez was extradited last month on charges that he received millions of dollars from 2004 to 2022 to support a drug trade that delivered hundreds of thousands of kilograms of drugs to the U.S.
Colon also said he'd subpoena Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman. Guzman is serving a life sentence for a massive conspiracy that utilized killings and corruption to support drug trafficking for over two decades.
The lawyer said the presidents could testify that they considered Hernandez an ally after he became the first Honduran president to agree to the extradition of drug traffickers from Honduras to the U.S.
“He sent many away who made threats against him and his family as a result of that,” Colon said.
Hernandez also kept U.S. agencies including the CIA and Drug Enforcement Agency informed about what was happening in his country, in a give-and-take that may have been reflected in a briefing Hernandez received in 2017 from U.S. officials in Langley, Virginia, where the CIA is headquartered, the lawyer said.
As for subpoenaing Biden, Obama and Trump, Colon said: “Why not? Biden may be busy running the country, but I can’t think of anything that Trump is doing that’s important and I know that Mr. Obama is retired, so ....”
The comments came after Hernández entered a not guilty plea to multiple charges before a judge, who set a tentative trial date of Jan. 17.
Colon told Judge P. Kevin Castel that Hernandez has been held for three weeks in solitary confinement like a “prisoner of war,” unable to communicate with his family or receive access to the jail’s commissary. He said Hernandez is sometimes allowed to exercise on a basketball court for one hour but isn't given a basketball.
The lawyer also complained that he's been mostly blocked from meeting with his client, although his paralegals have been allowed to meet with him.
Castel told the government to look into the issues and report to him within a week.
The lawyer said Hernandez has been isolated in a wing of the jail and treated as if he was a terrorism or violent defendant.
“He's not a terrorist,” Colon said. “There's no violence in his history.”
Castel said he could not see why Hernandez would be denied family phone calls, use of the jail commissary and other privileges inmates receive.
“Let's see if we can get a prompt report and corrective measures as appropriate,” the judge said.
“My client's very grateful,” Colon said as a bespectacled Hernandez nodded his head enthusiastically beside him.
The Federal Bureau of Prisons confirmed Hernandez is housed at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn. “For privacy, safety, and security reasons, the Bureau of Prisons does not discuss information on any individual inmate’s conditions of confinement to include housing quarters,” spokesperson Scott Taylor said in an email.
Hernández served as president of the Central American nation from 2014 through 2022. He faces charges including participating in a drug trafficking conspiracy, possession of machine guns and destructive devices and conspiracy to possess machine guns and destructive devices.
He was arrested at his home in Tegucigalpa in February at the request of U.S. authorities. Honduras’ Supreme Court rejected his appeal of a judge’s decision favoring extradition.
Larry Neumeister, The Associated Press