Could Sean Penn be facing criminal charges?
Could Sean Penn be facing criminal charges?

Sean Penn is an American actor, filmmaker, and political activist. He has won two Academy Awards for his roles in Mystic River (2003) and Milk (2008)

Recently, Sean Penn started appearing in the headlines of major newspapers and magazines. Here’s why: on January 9th, Rolling Stone Magazine published an interview the actor had done in person with a famous Mexican drug lord, Joaquin Guzman, whose nickname is “El Chapo”, Mexican slang for “shorty.”

Penn has been secretive about the circumstances around the interview, which was conducted in October of 2015 while Guzman was being pursued by Mexican and American authorities. Penn said that he was put in touch with the drug lord through the Mexican actress Kate Castillo.

The question now is whether Penn will face charges for his dealings with Guzman.

Georgetown University Law School Professor Paul Rothstein, an expert in criminal law and procedure, told People Magazine that knowingly visiting a fugitive is not a crime: "There is no criminal liability for seeing something illegal and not reporting it." He added, "If Sean Penn did nothing more than visit and report, he is protected by the First Amendment, and is in the clear."

Section 1071 of the Federal Code makes it a crime to “to harbor or conceal any person for whose arrest warrant or process has been issued, so as to prevent the fugitive’s discovery and arrest.” To gain a conviction, prosecutors would have to show Penn gave Guzman money, resources, or information to help him evade capture according to various experts.

"Simply having contact with a known drug trafficker is not the basis of prosecution," said Daniel Richman, a professor of law at Columbia University and a former federal prosecutor.