A major defendant in the case against a Chicago drug cartel must be allowed to exercise outdoors as he awaits trial, a federal judge said Wednesday.
Jesus Vicente Zambada-Niebla has been locked up indoors for 18 months at the Metropolitan Correctional Center since pleading not guilty to trafficking tons of cocaine into the Chicago area in February 2010, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Jail officials said they did not allow Zambada-Niebla access to the outdoors because his high-ranking status in a Mexican drug cartel put him at risk of an assassination attempt from the buildings surrounding the jail's rooftop exercise area. They also raised concerns about an escape attempt.
Zambada-Niebla was arrested in Mexico in 2009 before being turned over to U.S. authorities. Prosecutors say he was an influential member of the Sinaloa drug cartel, and that he helped move large amounts of cocaine and heroin from South and Central America to the United States from 2005 to 2008.
U.S District Judge Ruben Castillo considered the length of time Zambada-Niebla had been denied access to the outdoors in his decision.
Castillo did not believe the assassination threats were legitimate. He directed jail officials to work with attorneys to find a solution.