‘El Chapo’ likely to join some of nation’s most notorious criminals in Colorado’s ‘Supermax’
Drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman twice escaped from prison in Mexico.
With his conviction on drug trafficking and murder charges in U.S. federal court this week, he is likely headed to a much more secure facility: the so-called “Alcatraz of the Rockies.”
Built in 1995 for $60 million, it is currently home to 402 inmates — a veritable who’s who of violent criminals who live in the most restrictive conditions anywhere in the country. Here are a few of the facility’s most notorious residents 61-year-old Guzman would be joining.
Theodore Kaczynski: Known as the Unabomber, Kaczynski terrorized the country beginning in 1978.
Over the next 17 years, he managed to mail or hand-deliver bombs that killed three people and injured two dozen. When his cabin in Montana was raided in 1996, federal agents found 40,000 handwritten journals and bomb-related items. He pleaded guilty in 1998 and was given four life sentences. He is 73.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev: The Boston Marathon bomber was sentenced to death for killing three people and injuring more than 260 in his explosives attack April 15, 2013, near the race’s finish line.
The death penalty conviction was for two of the people killed in the bombing. His brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, apparently killed the third victim during a shootout with police days later that also resulted in Tamerlan’s death. While awaiting his death sentence, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has been in Supermax since 2015. He is 25.
Richard Reid: Three months after the terror attacks of 9/11, Reid boarded a plane in Paris that was headed to Miami.
En route, he tried to detonate a bomb hidden in his shoe. He was restrained by passengers, and the flight landed in Boston, where Reid was arrested. Reid, who became known as the “shoe bomber,” was convicted in 2003 after pleading guilty to felony counts that included attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction and attempted murder of passengers on an aircraft.
In his statement at his conviction, he said: “I am at war with your country. I’m at war with them not for personal reasons but because they have murdered so many children and they have oppressed my religion and they have oppressed people for no reason except that they say we believe in Allah.”
But U.S. District Court Judge William Young had a response: “You are not an enemy combatant. You are a terrorist. You are not a soldier in any war. You are a terrorist. To give you that reference, to call you a soldier gives you far too much stature. And we do not negotiate with terrorists. We do not sign documents with terrorists. We hunt them down one by one and bring them to justice. So war talk is way out of line in this court.” Reid is 45.
Terry Nichols: He and Timothy McVeigh committed what at the time was the deadliest terror attack on U.S. soil when they bombed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995.
McVeigh was executed in 2001 for his part in the attack, which killed 168 — including 19 children. Nichols was convicted on criminal conspiracy and involuntary manslaughter in the deaths of the eight federal law enforcement agents.
Nichols has been in Supermax since his conviction and hasn’t had a quiet time there. He sued the prison in 2009 for not providing him with whole-grain foods and fresh raw vegetables and fruit in accordance with religious and dietary needs. The case was dismissed by a federal judge a year later. In 2015, he filed a petition asking the government to turn over seized weapons to his ex-wife. That effort failed, and the weapons were ordered destroyed. Nichols is 63.
Zacarias Moussaoui: He pleaded guilty in 2006 as a conspirator in the 9/11 attacks and was sentenced to life at the Supermax.
During his trial, it was revealed he bragged about his ties to Al Qaeda, but testimony and evidence also showed that FBI officials in Washington were skeptical that he was a threat to the country. He also had been in jail the day of the 9/11 attacks — arrested three weeks prior for overstaying a visa.
When he left the courthouse after sentencing, he yelled; “America, you lost!” But U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema, at his sentencing, had a different view.
“You came here to be a martyr, and to die in a great big bang of glory,” she said. “But to paraphrase the poet T.S. Eliot, instead you will die with a whimper. The rest of your life you will spend in prison.” Moussaoui is 50.
Ramzi Yousef: Convicted in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, Yousef has a terrorist track record that also included the bombing of a Philippine Airlines flight in 1994 and a plot to bomb a U.S. airliner the following year.
He was convicted in 1997 for his role in the World Trade Center bombing, which left six dead. His sentence was life plus an additional 240 years. He is 50.
Must-read stories from the L.A. Times
Get all the day's most vital news with our Today's Headlines newsletter, sent every weekday morning.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.