CHICAGO -- A federal judge on Wednesday ordered that a major defendant in Chicago's largest drug cartel prosecution be allowed to exercise outdoors while he awaits trial.
U.S. District Judge Ruben Castillo said he considered the length of time -- 18 months -- that Jesus Vicente Zambada-Niebla has been incarcerated at the Metropolitan Correctional Center without access to the outdoors in his decision.
Castillo also noted that Zambada-Niebla has not violated any rules at the South Loop jail and that the trial is at least four months away.
Zambada-Niebla was one of dozens indicted last year on charges of trafficking tons of drugs into the Chicago area.
Jail officials argued that because of his alleged high-ranking status in a Mexican drug cartel, he was at risk of an assassination attempt from buildings surrounding the jail's rooftop exercise area. They also raised concerns about an escape attempt.
Castillo, noting he has a view of the MCC from his chambers at the U.S. Dirksen Courthouse, said he did not believe those were legitimate threats.
The judge directed jail officials to work with attorneys to find a solution.
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