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Drug cartel leader sentenced in closed hearing

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The former leader of a prominent Mexican drug cartel was sentenced to 25 years in prison during a closed hearing…

The former leader of a prominent Mexican drug cartel was sentenced to 25 years in prison during a closed hearing on Wednesday, The Houston Chronicle reported.

Osiel Cardenas Guillen had pleaded guilty to killing two U.S. federal agents and a Cameron Country sheriff’s deputy. Much of his case has taken place in closed hearings and many of the documents have been sealed — Wednesday’s hearing was no exception.

The proceedings were not listed on the court’s official schedule until several hours after it had ended and information about the ruling was released to the public by a Justice Department e-mail that contained a press release.

Attorneys for Cardenas declined to comment due to a gag order and Judge Hilda Tagle cited the safety of the defendant and others as the reason for closing the courtroom, The Monitor reported. The Justice Department and prosecutors also declined to comment on the secrecy surrounding the hearing.

“I have never heard of that for a Mexican drug cartel chieftain,” retired DEA agent Mike Vigil told the Chronicle about the level of secrecy, “nor for individuals in traditional organized crime like John Gotti, Sammy (The Bull) Gravano or any of them, even though they were cooperating.”