Former Columbian Drug Kingpin Apologizes During Sentencing

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NEW YORK—At his sentencing Wednesday, during which he learned he would spend more than 31 years in prison, a former drug lord apologized to the people of America for harming them with cocaine.

Diego Murillo was one of Columbia’s most notorious drug lords, who allegedly committed hundreds of murders either directly or indirectly. He was charged with conspiring to import cocaine into the United States.

Murillo claims that he was only trying to protect his people from the threat of Communism, and that the drug money his trafficking generated was the best way to do that. “I was the only way to counteract the vigorous advance of the Communist guerrillas,” he said to the judge, speaking through an interpreter.

The 48-year-old oversaw a virtual army of drug smugglers and other heavily armed criminals, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Snyder, adding that Murillo’s underlings amounted to a terrorist group “just like al-Qaida.”

An attorney for Murillo claimed that despite his early induction into the crime world, and his participation in the Medellin underworld of drug trafficking and land theft, he later became an advocate for peace. Said Margaret M. Shalley, Murillo used the money earned from his work as a drug kingpin to fund the construction of schools and education programs. He also helped those who had worked for him find legitimate employment.

Murillo, who portrayed himself as a benefactor and freedom fighter, was nevertheless the inspector general of an organization called the United Self-Defense Forces of Columbia. The United States had named this group as a terrorist organization, and Snyder claimed during the trial that Murillo supervised the importation of “numerous metric tons” of cocaine during his career.

Snyder testified that a witness for the government had overhead Murillo bragging that he would prevent himself from being tried in the U.S. by becoming active in the peace process.

Reporters Without Borders, the international journalists’ association, named Murillo as the number six “predator” of journalists, a worse designation than those held even by Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe or Kim Jong Il of North Korea.

Murillo was sentenced to 31 years and three months by U.S. District Judge Richard Berman, and ordered to pay $4 million in fines.

Said Murillo during his courtroom apology, “There is no political, moral or personal justification for continuing with this illegal activity that ends the life of so many people.”

 

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