Monday, 19 November, 2018

Reputation precedes ‘El Chapo’ as US trial approaches

Jury selection in 'El Chapo' trial set to begin Monday in New York Joaquin"El Chapo Guzman is escorted by U.S. agents after arriving from Mexico in Ronkonkoma N.Y. on Jan. 19 2017
Jay Anderson | 08 November, 2018, 01:03

Jury selection began Monday for the US trial of Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman with potential jurors, including a self-described professional Michael Jackson impersonator, quizzed about how much they knew about Guzman's reputation as a ruthless drug lord in Mexico.

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

The legal proceedings begin with its jury selection on Monday, November 5, in Brooklyn.

Judge Cogan also raised concerns at the hearing about the prosecutors' planned case at the hearing. He denies charges of drug trafficking and conspiracy and could face life in prison if convicted.

He's been held in solitary confinement in a high-security federal cell in Manhattan since January 2017, when Mexico agreed to allow his extradition to the United States for trial.

Jurors selected for the trial will be escorted by federal guards to and from the courthouse, officials said.

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

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.




"What scares me is that his family could come after jurors and their families", one of the women told the court, just feet away from where Guzman was sitting, saying she felt "nervous" and "unsafe".

Guzman formerly led the Sinaloa Cartel, which became one of the most powerful drug trafficking organizations in the world, named after its base in the Mexican state of Sinaloa.

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

"I don't know why it's called the 'El Chapo,"' he said.

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

In his way now is a lineup of government witnesses who survived the wave of violence and are expected to give details about the ruthless way he kept power for 20 years in the cutthroat world of global drug trafficking.

At least some of the several hundred witnesses expected to testify are in witness protection programs or are already in jail, housed in special wings to protect them from reprisals. The only visitors he is allowed are his three lawyers and twin, seven-year-old daughters, from whom he is separated by a thick glass screen.

This time, Mexico made a decision to wash their hands of him and put him on a plane.

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