Honduras ex-President Hernandez sentenced to 45 years in prison on US drug conviction

Federal prosecutors had urged a life sentence, arguing it would send a message to other traffickers and their accomplices in government.
Last Updated : 26 June 2024, 17:41 IST

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New York: Former Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez was sentenced by a US judge on Wednesday to 45 years in prison for his conviction on drug and firearm offenses.

A Manhattan jury in March found Hernandez, 55, guilty of accepting millions of dollars in bribes to protect US-bound cocaine shipments belonging to traffickers he once publicly proclaimed to combat.

US District Judge Kevin Castel handed down the sentence at a hearing in Manhattan federal court.

Hernandez had faced a mandatory minimum sentence of 40 years in prison.

Federal prosecutors had urged a life sentence, arguing it would send a message to other traffickers and their accomplices in government.

"Without corrupt politicians like the defendant, the kind of large-scale, international drug trafficking at issue in this case, and the rampant drug-related violence that follows, is difficult if not impossible," prosecutors wrote on Monday.

Hernandez led Honduras, a US ally in Central America, from 2014 to 2022.

His lawyer Renato Stabile had urged a sentence of no more than 40 years, calling that effectively a life sentence, and said Hernandez would continue to fight his conviction.

"Mr. Hernandez did more to combat narcotrafficking in Honduras than any Honduran President before or since," Stabile wrote.

Hernandez has been jailed in Brooklyn since his April 2022 extradition from Tegucigalpa.

In a Tuesday night court filing, Stabile asked Castel to let Hernandez remain at the Metropolitan Detention Center while he appeals.

During a two-week trial, prosecutors said Hernandez used drug money to bribe officials and manipulate voting results during Honduras' 2013 and 2017 presidential elections. Several convicted traffickers testified they bribed Hernandez.

Testifying in his own defense, Hernandez denied taking bribes from drug cartels.

His lawyers, meanwhile, accused the convicted traffickers of being out for revenge over Hernandez's anti-drug policies.

In May, Castel denied Hernandez's bid for a new trial.

Hernandez had argued that a US drug enforcement agent mistakenly testified that cocaine trafficking had gone up, not down, during his presidency.

But the judge called that issue "immaterial" to whether Hernandez conspired with traffickers.

Hernandez's younger brother, Tony Hernandez, was sentenced to life in prison in March 2021 following his conviction on drug charges.

Published 26 June 2024, 17:41 IST

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