The Prosecutor’s Office will call its last witness against Genaro Garcia Luna early next week. This was announced this Wednesday by the US authorities, in a sudden adjustment to the calendar that the trial in New York was expected to follow. The change in the prosecutors’ strategy prompted complaints from the former official’s lawyers, who had initially been informed that the interrogations would take six weeks. The defense will have to decide these days if they will call Garcia Luna to testify. “It is his decision,” Cesar de Castro, the leader of the team defending the defendant, said in a brief interview as he left the Brooklyn courthouse.
So far, the Prosecutor’s Office has called 25 people to testify against Garcia Luna. Although at first there was talk of a list of 70 witnesses ready to take the stand during the proceedings, the Prosecutor’s Office decided to rule out several of them, which allows for a shorter trial than had been thought. The defense responded that they were not going to call their own witnesses, at least that is what they have planned. The only unknown is whether Garcia Luna will make the decision to testify.
In these types of cases, it is very rare for the defendants to speak in front of the jury because that opens the door for the Prosecution to carry out a cross-examination. Under that assumption, Garcia Luna would have to face questions from prosecutors and answer under oath, with the risk of being charged with perjury for lying to the court if the charges are ultimately proven. De Castro said that he could not comment on the conversations that he has had with his client in this regard, due to the confidentiality that he prevails in the relationship with his client. “I don’t know, it’s their strategy,” the defense attorney said in Spanish when asked for his opinion on the authorities’ decision to speed up the pace and shorten the trial schedule. “Surprise? No,” he added.
This Wednesday’s session was marked by the testimony of four US law enforcement agents. Ivan Carrera, a DEA agent who participated in the arrest of the former official in Dallas (Texas) in December 2019, said that Garcia Luna denied having links to drug trafficking during his tenure and also said that he did not know Ivan Reyes Arzate, a former commander of the Federal Police who was sentenced in 2022 to 10 years in prison for that crime. The Federal Police depended on the Secretary of Public Security of Garcia Luna. “He said that he never helped them and that he fought them,” said Carrera, who admitted that the statement after the arrest was not recorded because of a problem with the DEA equipment. Despite this, the former secretary agreed to give his testimony and gave the access codes to his electronic devices so that they could be reviewed by the authorities.
Also in court was George Dietz, an employee of the Department of Justice who has collaborated in the investigation against Garcia Luna for the prosecutors of the Eastern District of New York, where the trial is being held. Dietz spoke of several photographs of a luxurious house that the accused had, but his testimony was incomplete and will be resumed on Monday, waiting for the judge to make a decision on the evidence that he will admit in the process. Before that, there were Marlene Tarantino, the official who reviewed Garcia Luna’s immigration application in 2019, and Egbert Simon, an officer who was also involved in that process. Tarantino was called near the end of Tuesday’s session and had to return to finish her statement. The former official is accused of giving false statements when he completed the process: he said that he had not committed any crime.
According to what Cogan and the parties discussed, Dietz is expected to return on Monday of next week to testify. It is also expected that, immediately afterwards, the Prosecutor’s Office will call a “significant witness”, the one he mentioned in his last letter and for which he asked that the session on Thursday of this week be cancelled. Assistant Prosecutor Saritha Komatireddy said it was very likely that prosecutors would finish their interrogations on Monday. This also closes the possibility to several aid workers who were expected to testify in the trial for drug trafficking and organized crime. It is not yet known who will be the last witness for the Prosecutor’s Office.
From that point on, the scheduled calendar depends on whether Garcia Luna declares or not. If he appears, it is very likely that his declaration will be on Tuesday. If not, both parties give their closing statement or final intervention next week. This is the last opportunity they have to address the jury, summarize the testimony and evidence, and try to convince them that Garcia Luna is guilty or that he is not. After that, Judge Cogan will instruct the jurors on how they should render their verdict. The next phase is a deliberation period, for which there are no fixed deadlines: it will last as long as it takes the 12 members to make a decision. Finally, when the verdict is known, it will be presented to the court. If Garcia Luna speaks in court, that forecast can be covered in a few days. It all depends on the times set by Cogan in the following sessions. What is practically a fact is that the trial against the ex-secretary will end sooner than anticipated.