Mexican actress willing to talk to authorities about 'El Chapo'

LOS ANGELES - An attorney for actress Kate del Castillo said Thursday she is willing to talk to Mexican authorities about her encounters with Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman and felt "betrayed" and "used" by actor Sean Penn, who wrote a lengthy article about his meeting with the drug kingpin after the actress introduced the two men.

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The comments by Harland Braun, Del Castillo's U.S. lawyer, came after prosecutors in her native country issued an order for her to be located and brought in for questioning as part of a probe of possible money-laundering involving Guzman and the actress' tequila business.

Mexican Attorney General Arely Gomez confirmed that a kind of summons had been issued for Del Castillo to testify. Gomez stressed she is officially considered a witness and has not been accused of any crime.

The clandestine meeting took place last October as Del Castillo explored the possibility of developing a movie about the capo, and Penn's Rolling Stone interview was published Jan. 9, a day after Guzman was recaptured in a raid in the city of Los Mochis.

"She didn't know Penn was going to write for Rolling Stone. Would you meet with 'El Chapo' and approve to have the interview for publication?" Braun said. "After the interview she had no choice about it. Once Penn and Guzman agreed on the article, what was she going to do? She signed off after they had done so."

"That's what made her feel really betrayed by these people," he said, referring to Penn and two people who accompanied him. "The three of them go together and basically used her and didn't tell her."

In Penn's Rolling Stone article, he was vague about whether he had told Del Castillo about the story prior to the meeting with Guzman.

"It was then that I posed the idea of a magazine story," Penn wrote. "Espinoza's smile of mischief arose, indicating he would arrange for me to meet Kate back in Los Angeles. At a Santa Monica restaurant, I made my case, and Kate agreed to make the bridge, sending our names for vetting across the border."

While Mexican officials have not sought to question Penn, Braun assured that Del Castillo is willing to talk.

"In the course of the investigation they are going to talk to her, right?" Braun said. "If we receive proper information and credentials, she'll talk to them. She's not hiding anything."

But Braun suggested she would prefer to talk in the United States, noting "there's a treaty in the U.S. that says that Mexico can come here and question people."

As far as reprisals - Mexican officials have said Del Castillo's contacts with Guzman helped them almost catch the drug lord in an October raid - Braun said she had no fear.

"We're not afraid of anything 'cause she didn't do anything to hurt anyone," he said. "She didn't do this to expose Mr. Guzman."

Braun said "the Mexican government knows that there's no money laundering."

"You can find out very quickly by looking financial records," he said.

He also denied there was any relationship between Guzman and Del Castillo.

The Mexican newspaper Milenio recently published a series of text messages between del Castillo and "El Chapo" in which the drug lord showed more interest in the actress than in Penn. The two had planned to meet again, and the messages sometimes veered into a flirting tone and gushing expressions of mutual admiration.

A federal official confirmed the messages were authentic.

"He obviously was a fan of hers. She was trying to encourage him because he wanted to make a movie about his life. That's it," Braun said. "They're obviously friendly but that's it."

"You would not, if you're trying to make a movie about a person's life, antagonize them, right?"

Earlier Thursday, two Mexican security officials said federal prosecutors had issued the search order for Del Castillo because the movie and telenovela star did not voluntarily appear before authorities to give a statement as requested. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

The officials said the order applies only to Mexican territory and added that if Del Castillo were found to be in the country, she would be detained to make a statement as a witness and then released after doing so.

Braun said Del Castillo, a naturalized U.S. citizen, was currently in Los Angeles, where she has lived for years.

He declined to comment on her legal situation in Mexico or whether he had been contacted by U.S. authorities.

Del Castillo recently sought a court injunction that would bar Mexican authorities from detaining her, although the judge asked her lawyers for more specifics before proceeding with the case.

Mexican authorities say the October meeting between Guzman, Del Castillo and Penn in the mountains of northwestern Mexico helped them locate the cartel leader, though he escaped arrest on that occasion.

Del Castillo has appeared in movies and TV shows produced in the United States, Mexico and elsewhere including "Weeds" and "La Reina del Sur."


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