'El Chapo' and the secret Sean Penn interview: What happens next

Story highlights

  • Sean Penn's interview was "essential" for drug lord's recapture, official says
  • Interpol agents serve extradition paperwork in Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman's prison
  • The extradition process could take months

(CNN)First came the arrest, then the publication of a bombshell interview in a mountainous Mexican jungle, and now the extradition process.

Mexican forces recaptured drug kingpin Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman on Friday, six months after his prison escape. It was the end of his freedom, but the circus was just beginning.
    In an article published Saturday on RollingStone.com, actor Sean Penn revealed that he met Guzman in person in October. It was a sit-down meeting that started with a warm hug and lasted seven hours.
    During that meeting, the drug lord agreed to another interview at a later time, Rolling Stone reported. A face-to-face interview was not possible, but Penn questioned Guzman through messaging and video. The video shows Guzman sitting as someone reads the questions sent by Penn. Guzman's answers sometimes were short or ambiguous, and there were no follow-up questions.
    Mexican officials have said that while El Chapo was on the run, he called movie producers about a planned biopic. Such Hollywood theatrics added another twist to the surreal life of the two-time prison escapee.
    Here's what we know about Guzman's recapture and the controversial Rolling Stone interview:


    What happened:
    Mexican forces recaptured Guzman in his native Sinaloa state early Friday after a shootout that killed six of his people.
    As the raid was unfolding, Guzman escaped via a secret passage in a home that descended into a tunnel that led to the city's storm drains, a senior law enforcement source told CNN.
    There was at least a 90-minute lapse before Mexican Marines found the secret passage, the source said.
    Video shows firefight during raid on El Chapo's hideout
    exp TSR.Todd.Chapo.safehouse.raid.video_00002001


      Video shows firefight during raid on El Chapo's hideout


    Video shows firefight during raid on El Chapo's hideout 02:49
    Penn's interview with the drug lord was "essential" for his capture, Mexican Attorney General Arely Gomez Gonzalez said in a radio interview Monday with journalist Joaquin Lopez-Doriga.
    Before the interview came to light, two U.S. law enforcement officials had said tracking of cell phones and electronic exchanges of people close to the drug kingpin led to his recapture. Mexican authorities had said they captured Guzman partly because his representatives contacted filmmakers and actors about making his biopic.
    What happens next:
    Guzman is back in the same maximum-security prison from which he escaped. But the Sinaloa cartel leader could be extradited to the United States, where he faces seven drug-related indictments in various jurisdictions.
    Interpol agents served extradition paperwork Sunday in the prison where Guzman is being held, the Mexican attorney general's office said. He would have the right to appeal, and Guzman's attorneys have filed documents to fight extradition.
    A source at the attorney general's office said the whole process could take up to a year, or longer. The process began last summer, before Guzman's escape, when the U.S. government formally requested his extradition, according to the source.
    The original request is being reviewed by a federal and circuit court, the source said.
    Once judges issue a nonbinding opinion, it gets sent to the attorney general's office, which makes a recommendation to the Foreign Ministry, the source said. The Foreign Ministry has the final say on whether the extradition proceeds.


    What happened:
    Penn said Mexican actress Kate del Castillo planned the interview. The drug lord wanted the actress' help in spearheading a movie project about his life.
    The Rolling Stone article describes a man on the run who appeared to be anything but, as he sipped tequila in a "casual patterned silk shirt and pressed black jeans."
    His face beaming, and looking "remarkably well-groomed" for a prison escapee, Guzman bragged about the intricate nature of his drug empire.
    "I have a fleet of submarines, airplanes, trucks and boats," he told Penn.
    While Penn does not give the specific location of the interview, he said it was conducted in a mountainous Mexican jungle.
    What happens next:
    There have been conflicting reports on whether Mexican officials knew about the meeting.
    But the timing of the interview coincides with reported sightings and near-misses.
    In October, the same month Penn interviewed him, authorities said they almost caught Guzman but he slipped away. At the time, they said, he suffered injuries to his leg and face as he evaded capture.
    CNN legal analyst Joey Jackson said at first glance, it does not appear Penn and del Castillo broke any laws.
    "You can argue it's morally reprehensible. But when you look at it from Sean Penn's perspective, he simply had a talk with a fugitive," Jackson said.
    "You need some type of aiding or abetting or assisting or material support ... of a fugitive," he said. "Merely going and having an interview and having El Chapo expand upon his life, background, why he does what he does, that at this point seems insufficient for criminality."
    A senior Mexican law official said authorities want to question Penn and del Castillo, and especially want to learn more about where the interview took place.


    What happened:
    Much speculation has focused on Rolling Stone's controversial story and how it came to be.
    Rolling Stone founder Jann Wenner told The New York Times that Penn approached him months earlier with the story idea.
    Penn was unreachable for a few days, then later contacted him and said the interview had happened.
    "It was just between me and Sean, for a couple of weeks as he wrote his draft," he said.
    What followed were months of top-secret editing and consultations with a lawyer.
    Critics have slammed the magazine for giving the notorious drug lord a chance to read and approve the story before it was published. The story includes a disclosure about the unusual arrangement but says Guzman did not request any changes.
    What happens next:
    Wenner hopes nothing.
    "They got their man, so what do they need us for?" he said. "There is nothing we can add anymore."
    For his part, Penn has denied any wrongdoing. In an email exchange with The Associated Press about his interview, Penn said, "I've got nothin' to hide."