Mexico has urged the US Department of Justice to extradite the alleged mastermind behind the murder of award-winning journalist Javier Valdez-Cárdenas after it was reported he could be released from a US prison.
Dámaso Lopez-Serrano, 34, the godson of El Chapo and better known as El Mini Lic, surrendered to US authorities in August 2017 during the family’s war with El Chapo’s sons. He pleaded guilty to drug conspiracy charges in January 2018.
In a court hearing on Friday, U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw sentenced him to just over five years in prison, a term equivalent to the time he has already spent in custody. The judge called his case “extraordinary” and “exceptional”, and announced his “served” sentence.
He was ordered to forfeit $1 million in drug proceeds but will not serve time in prison.
He evaded the minimum mandatory 10-year prison sentence that matched the crime to which he pleaded guilty, in part because he surrendered and agreed to testify against his godfather.
Following the ruling, Mexico’s attorney general’s office has reiterated its call for Lopez-Serrano to be extradited to prosecute him “as soon as possible” for the journalist’s alleged murder.
López-Serrano had been identified as the “intellectual author” of the murder of Sinaloan journalist Valdez-Cárdenas, who was murdered in broad daylight a stone’s throw from his RioDoce office, sparking outrage.
He has denied responsibility for the murder and claims he is falsely accused by El Chapo’s son and corrupt Mexican officials.
López-Serrano is said to testify against El Chapo during the hearing. However, he was called to take the stand for unknown reasons.
“It’s hard to overestimate your involvement in the top-level cartel — you were a manager, a leader, you had your own cell,” Sabraw said. “You have debriefed extensively. The degree of cooperation is extraordinary. You put yourself in danger.”
He was released from a San Diego prison on Friday, Daily news in Mexico said, citing the US Federal Bureau of Prisons.
During the hearing, he told the court, “I know I’m going to be a very different person than I used to be.”
“I’m asking you for a chance to start a new life.”
Prosecutors in Mexico said they had received a Red Notice arrest warrant for him from Interpol and urged US authorities to extradite him.