Things That Matter

El Chapo And Jeffrey Epstein Were This Latina Attorney’s First Clients And She Gets Hate Mail For It

Mariel Colón Miró was just four months out of law school, waiting for New York State bar exam results at the ripe age of 26 years old when she was scrolling through Craigslist looking for jobs. She stumbled upon a New York firm that was looking for a bilingual paralegal and went for it. It wasn’t until she got the job that she asked who her client was.

Later, in an interview, she confessed that the name Joaquín Archivaldo Guzmán Loera sounded familiar, but it was her trusty friend, Google, that gave her the full scoop. The Puerto Rican recalls “googling who this person was and I’m like, holy shit!” It was El Chapo.

Colón Miró just sort of “clicked” with El Chapo in person.

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The first time she met him, she was supposed to go with her boss, but they left their ID on the subway and couldn’t gain access to the Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC) that detains El Chapo. So Colón Miró went by herself. She sat across from him and said hello. El Chapo put his hand up against the glass, and she put hers up against his. They talked for three hours about their Latinidad and politics. “He is a very likable person,” she told New York. “It was like a click. This is meant to be my job. I felt very comfortable.”

She turned down a job at the Legal Aid Society after El Chapo asked her to join his defense team as a trial attorney.

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She had been visiting him nearly every day at MCC for months, going through the defense team’s strategy, every piece of discovery, and practicing for cross-examination. Senior attorney Jeffrey Lichtman cites Colón Miró as the only reason El Chapo trusted his defense team. “Chapo, not being American and familiar with our justice system, didn’t trust everyone who worked on the case. But he always trusted her,” Lichtman says.

Colón Miró sympathizes with El Chapo, who was kept in solitary confinement 24/7 and only allowed to speak with Colón Miró herself.

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He was forbidden from speaking to his wife and was only allowed one hour of television a day. Given his two prison breaks during outdoor time, he’s also been denied requests to go outside. “MCC is a very inhumane place, especially if you’re in the solitary housing unit,” Colón Miró told New York Magazine. “It is not a sanitary place. You can see rats walking around. It is nasty. Other clients have told me there’s mold on the water faucets, the AC is never clean. You can actually see the dust and mold.”

Today, she’s even helping El Chapo’s wife with her fashion line, which glorifies El Chapo himself.

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“El Chapo Guzmaán: JGL” will sell glow-in-the-dark cell phone cases featuring El Chapo’s signature, alongside hoodies and T-shirts. On top of that, she’s working on El Chapo’s appeal case, citing the effects of the supermax prison in which he resides, often known as the “Alcatraz of the Rockies.” He’s allowed outdoor time now, but Colón Miró feels he’s been dehumanized. “I noticed he was sad. Completely different. His demeanor, his eyes. Even his hair — they shaved his head. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been convicted of the most heinous crimes or horrible crimes, I don’t think that anybody deserves to be treated that way.”

Colón Miró grew up in Puerto Rico and studied music business at Loyola University in New Orleans.

Credit: marielcolonmiroesq / Instagram

She eventually enrolled in law school on the island and later transferred to Hofstra. Today, she sings in the Hillsong church choir, and tells New York that she sleeps “with a clear conscience.” For Colón Miró, her job is knowing that “we are all sinners. Some of us are sinners that happened to break the law.”

Colón Miró’s second client was Jeffrey Epstein before he committed suicide.

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Her clientele list has caused an onslaught of hate mail for Colón Miró who ask her how she’s able to represent convicted killers and sex offenders. “If you have a moral dilemma with that, then this profession is not for you. It’s easy to lose that human perspective in this profession. You think that detaching makes it easier to do your job, but it makes it harder for your client. You can’t ever lose that perspective, that empathy, that caring for them. I don’t ever want to lose it. I think that’s what distinguishes me,” she told New York Magazine.

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