Published: Tue, November 06, 2018
Global News | By Stacy Ballard

El Chapo trial expected to open in NY

El Chapo trial expected to open in NY

The trial of Mexican drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman on drug trafficking and conspiracy charges, which is expected to last four months, began Monday with the selection of jurors in Brooklyn federal court.

U.S. prosecutors contend that from 1989 to 2014, the cartel smuggled at least 340,892 pounds (154,626 kilograms) of cocaine into the United States, as well as heroin, methamphetamine and marijuana, raking in $14 billion.

Mexico extradited Guzman to the United States in 2017, and ever since he has been held in solitary confinement at a NY federal prison. The jurors were called into the courtroom wearing stickers identifying them by number, their names withheld to protect their safety. The charges he now faces can earn him a lifelong prison sentence.

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.

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Security for the trial is expected to be high, and not just for Guzman who escaped twice from Mexican prisons. Jury selection will be conducted in security conditions reserved only for the most risky defendants. In the United States, opioid addiction has spiraled into an epidemic.

The mammoth trial in Brooklyn, which will cost millions of dollars and is expected to last more than four months, will see one of the world's most notorious criminals face the USA justice system. He's accused of running a massive drug trafficking operation, along with money laundering, kidnapping and murder.

United States prosecutors contend from 1989 to 2014, the Sinaloa cartel smuggled at least 155 tonnes of cocaine into the USA, as well as heroin, methamphetamine and marijuana, raking in US$14 billion (S$19 billion). Even Guzman's lawyers are in the dark as to all the former associates, hired hands or rivals who have turned informants.

That criminal pedigree has prompted authorities here to keep him in solitary confinement at a New York City jail. Instead, she has attended nearly all his pretrial hearings, waving and blowing him kisses from the gallery.

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Guzman is known for a series of daring prison escapes, including a 2015 escape from Mexico's most secure prison via a tunnel under his cell's shower.

He was arrested again by Mexican marines in February 2014 but escaped 14 months later before being re-captured in January 2016.

He conducted a secret interview with Sean Penn, who, according to the actor, was unaware he was being surveilled by the Mexican government, and reportedly ended up being the beacon for authorities to ultimately catch up with Guzman. This time, Mexico chose to wash their hands and put him on a plane.

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