Thursday, 15 November, 2018

Reputation precedes ‘El Chapo’ as US trial approaches

'El Chapo' Trial: Trial of alleged drug kingpin to begin in US Trial of drug lord Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman to begin in US with anonymous jury and high security
Gerardo Duncan | 08 November, 2018, 01:03

Accused Mexican drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman's trial is scheduled to begin today with jury selection in a United States federal court in Brooklyn.

American prosecutors have accused Joaquin Guzman of overseeing a multibillion-dollar drug operation and a ruthless campaign of murders and kidnappings of his rivals.

Guzman was extradited to the United States from Mexico on January 19, 2017, after escaping twice from Mexican prisons before being captured again.

At pretrial hearings leading to the trial, heavily armed federal officers and bomb-sniffing dogs patrolled outside.

The jurors were called into the courtroom wearing stickers identifying them by number, their names withheld to protect their safety. Given Guzman's current residence at a high-security prison in Manhattan, Federal agents are scrambling to find ways to transport him to the NYC borough without throwing a wrench in the city's traffic flow.

Opening arguments are scheduled to start on November 13, after a week set aside for jury selection, held behind closed doors with only a select "pool" of reporters admitted under the tightest security reserved for the most risky defendants.

He was recruited by Guadalajara cartel boss Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo, known as "The Godfather" of Mexico's modern drug cartels. US Marshals will escort them every day.

They were also questioned in Brooklyn's federal court about their views on the legalization of marijuana, their fluency in Spanish and their feelings toward both law enforcement and co-operating witnesses.

The judge also agreed with prosecutors that the jury for the case should be kept anonymous, a measure typical in terrorism or mob cases where jury intimidation is a concern. Another was sent home after she said she couldn't be impartial, saying, "I feel very bad about drugs".

It is alleged that he spent a quarter of a century smuggling more than 155 tonnes of cocaine into the United States.

The jury will determine whether Guzman - the father of two whose nickname means "shorty" as he is only 5ft 2ins tall - is guilty or not of 11 trafficking, firearms and money laundering charges.

After Felix Gallardo was arrested in 1989, Guzman's Sinaloa cartel began its meteoric rise.

Joaquin Guzman is accused of killing thousands of people while running the Sinaloa drug cartel and shipping tons of cocaine into the United States.

Prosecutors say the US government is seeking a $14 billion forfeiture order as part of the case.

After Guzman was brought to NY, authorities here decided he should be housed in solitary confinement in a high-security wing of a federal jail in Manhattan that has held notorious terrorists and mobsters.

But that could create a logistical nightmare during the trial, and there is speculation that "El Chapo" is being held in a cell deep within the Brooklyn courthouse.

Arrested for the first time in Guatemala in 1993, Guzman spent more than seven years in a Mexican prison before his first escape in 2001.

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