El Chapo faces biggest US drugs trial

Hannah Rogers
November 8, 2018

"Guzman Loera is accused of using violence, including torture and murder, to maintain an iron-fisted grip on the drug trade across the U.S. -Mexico border, ' then-Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Robert Capers said".

The potential jurors arrived at the courthouse Monday to find it under tight security that included heavily armed officers, some doing sweeps with bomb-sniffing dogs.

Guzman, who was captured in 2016 after tunneling his way out of a maximum securiy Mexican jail, was brought to New York City in January 2017 to face murder and drug conspiracy charges.

Jury selection is expected to take a few days with opening statements set to start on November 13.

The diminutive drug lord, 61, made a name for himself as the undisputed king of the ruthless Sinaloa Cartel.

A Mexican official told Reuters at the time that the move was a show of goodwill to incoming US President Donald Trump, who was inaugurated the next day, though Alberto Elias Beltran, Mexico's assistant attorney general for worldwide affairs, denied any connection.

They will also be escorted in and out of the court by guards. Another was sent home after she said she couldn't be impartial, saying, "I feel very bad about drugs". Prosecutors have also sought to hide the identity of cooperating witnesses out of concerns the cartel could seek retribution, while a judge is keeping the jury anonymous to protect them from intimidation.

A moment of levity came when one potential juror was asked about a deli near his workplace stocking a sandwich called "El Chapo".

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Prosecutors describe Guzman as one of the most risky and feared drug kingpins, who between 1989 and 2014 ran the world's largest drug trafficking organization.

Image: The shower where El Chapo escaped through a tunnel in 2015.

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

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.

Until he was recaptured in early 2016 - and extradited to the United States in 2017 - he seemed largely untouchable.

Prosecutors say that from 1989 to 2014, the cartel smuggled 154,626 kilograms of cocaine into the United States, as well as heroin, methamphetamine and marijuana, raking in $14 billion. He spends 23 hours a day in his cell.

"El Chapo" has twice escaped from Mexican prisons and is considered an extreme flight risk.

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