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Chuck Goudie Continues To Insist He Didn't Report What He Clearly Reported

"Alfredo Vasquez-Hernandez pleaded guilty in connection to operating the Chicago hub of the Mexican drug ring ran by Joaquin ''El Chapo'' Guzman," Chuck Goudie reported Tuesday for ABC7 Chicago.

"Alfredo Vasquez-Hernandez made it official Tuesday in federal court was after a false start on a guilty plea a few weeks ago."

That's one way to put it. False reporting is another. Let's take a look.

On February 26, Goudie reported:

Without even being in Chicago, El Chapo took a legal blow Wednesday. Alfredo Vasquez-Hernandez in a surprise court announcement said he intends to plead guilty on March 7, according to his attorney Paul Brayman. Guzman was charged alongside Vasquez-Hernandez in a Chicago indictment in 2009, and is allegedly responsible for smuggling the majority of illegal drugs sold on Chicago's streets.

The implication is clear because virtually the only way this could have been a "legal blow" to El Chapo is if Vasquez-Hernandez had agreed to cooperate with authorities against him. It would be reasonable to wonder if this was part of the plea agreement, but not responsible to report without having nailed it down.

Worse, Goudie reported in a story no longer on the station's website that Vasquez-Hernandez's plea agreement meant that he had "turned against' El Chapo.

So it's no wonder that Goudie was forced to report this the following day (and insert a link to this follow-up into the first story):

In the shadowy, cut-throat world of Mexican drug cartels, the reputed Chicago operations commander for Mexico's superpower Sinaloa drug cartel will not testify against his boss, Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman. That is the message that an attorney for accused El Chapo lieutenant Alfredo Vasquez-Hernandez wants delivered loud and clear.

Vazquez-Hernandez intends to plead guilty next week, but on Thursday his attorney Paul Brayman insisted that is where the arrangement will end. Brayman told the I-Team that there will be no plea deal with the government nor will Hernandez testify against his ruthless ex-boss.

Just to hammer home the message:

At a status hearing on Wednesday, attorney Brayman told U.S. District Chief Judge Ruben Castillo that Vasquez-Hernandez will plead guilty next week to one count of possession of cocaine with intent to distribute greater than five kilograms. According to Mr. Brayman, additional charges would be dropped but he firmly says there is no plea bargain deal with prosecutors that would require his client to testify nor any agreement on a recommended prison sentence.

While in jail, the strongman of the Sinaloa cartel still rules over a potent operation-and is considered a threat to wayward co-workers, expansion-minded competitors and all of their family members. Violence is the language of the cartel world. With that in mind, on Thursday lawyer Brayman told the I-Team that any suggestions Mr. Vasquez-Hernandez would testify against El Chapo were incorrect and not true. Brayman said the blind guilty plea that will be entered by his client is nothing more than that.

Okay, we get it! Just because he's agreed to plead doesn't mean he's cooperating.

The damage, however, was done.

"A reputed lieutenant of captured Mexican drug lord Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman abruptly backed out of a plan to plead guilty Friday because a Chicago television news report implied he was cooperating against his infamous boss, raising concerns about his family's safety in Mexico, the man's attorney said," the Tribune reported on March 7.

The lawyer for Alfredo Vasquez-Hernandez told a federal judge that ABC-7's Chuck Goudie had incorrectly reported last month that his client had "turned against" Guzman, when in fact he planned to plead guilty to a cocaine distribution count without any agreement with prosecutors to cooperate.

Goudie's Feb. 26 report touched off rumors at the federal jail that spread to Mexico, where Vasquez-Hernandez's wife and children reside and are now in fear of reprisal, defense attorney Paul Brayman told U.S. District Chief Judge Ruben Castillo.

"It was like poking a hornet's nest with a stick . . . It's simply not true," Brayman said. "He does not intend to testify against anybody, ever."

Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Shakeshaft also said that Goudie's report was in error, calling it an "unfortunate piece of journalism."

The plea to be entered, of course, was a "blind" plea, meaning the plea came without bargain.

Brayman said after court . . . that he had called Goudie immediately after he saw the story and asked him to retract the statement that his client had 'turned on' Guzman.

"He said he didn't really think he was inferring that (Vasquez-Hernandez) was cooperating," Brayman said.

Then what the hell was he inferring?

By Tuesday, the plea was back on - but Goudie still couldn't come to grips with what he had done.

"Following Tuesday's hearing, Goudie argued with Vasquez-Hernandez's attorneys outside court, insisting that when he said Vasquez-Hernandez had 'turned against' El Chapo that did not mean he thought Vasquez-Hernandez was cooperating," Kim Janssen reported for the Sun-Times.

In Goudie's own report, he argued that "The I-Team reported that by pleading guilty, Hernandez was turning against El Chapo, but we never reported he was cooperating."

Goudie even reported on his own exchange with Brayman:

Goudie: Nobody reported on a television station that he cooperated, you know that don't you?

Brayman: Mr. Goudie you know that you said on television that he turned against Chapo and the implication is that he was cooperating with that statement otherwise you wouldn't have said. Why would you have said that he turned against Chapo, it's absolutely false.

Goudie: Well there was no report that he was cooperating, is that correct?

Brayman: That, that's, well there was an implication that you say he turned against El Chapo, how else do you read that?

Goudie still hasn't explained how it could have meant anything else but that he was cooperating.

You can hear the actual audio, thanks to Janssen:

(Or click through to Goudie's report and watch the video; the embed's horked.)


Everybody makes mistakes - though not everybody makes this kind of mistake. Still, the greater sin is Goudie's refusal to admit he got sloppy or made a presumption he shouldn't have. Admitting mistakes sets you free, Chuck.


Addendum: I would be remiss not to mention Goudie's personal media cheerleader.

"While much of what passes for news on local television has hit the skids, fortunately there's still something to be said for solid, old-fashioned investigative reporting in Chicago," Robert Feder, who has a habit of pumping up his friends and punishing his non-friends while preaching about ethics, wrote on March 24.

Somehow the Vasquez-Hernandez fiasco escaped his attention - along with the rest of Goudie's infamous legacy.

"Other local stations continue to do notable investigative work, and some have been considerably more effective at marketing their investigative units. But none delivers the goods with the frequency or consistency of Goudie & Co."


Perhaps Feder should be given a break; he was only rewriting a December column on the exact same thing.

I'm sure personal, private assurances were involved.


Comments welcome.


Posted on April 30, 2014

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