Tight security as trial for alleged Mexican drug lord 'El Chapo' begins

Leroy Wright
November 7, 2018

Lawyers for Guzman said in a motion last week that they needed more time to review more than 14,000 pages documents, largely related to key witnesses expected to testify against their client, that prosecutors turned over. Guzman will join the ranks of mobsters John Gotti and Vincent Basciano, whose career-ending appearances in the Eastern District courthouse each brought in more than 1,000 potential jurors.

Opening arguments are scheduled to start on November 13, after a week of jury selection, held behind closed doors under security reserved for the most unsafe defendants.

Prosecutors say Guzman was in the habit of ordering the killings of anyone who got in his way during his heyday in Mexico as boss of the Sinaloa cartel.

Authorities say he maintained his grip on the Sinaloa Cartel.

Guzman was extradited to the United States in January 2017 on an indictment that detailed his alleged reign over a merciless trafficking organization controlled through murder and torture.

Mr Heroy estimates the trial will cost U.S. taxpayers "more than US$50 million", a price tag that includes protection programmes for at least some of the hundreds of witnesses expected to testify. The required security to ensure each parties safety is unprecedented and it expected to cause the Brooklyn Bridge to be closed twice a day until the end of the trial.

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

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Guzman's co-defendant Ismael "El Mayo" Zambada remains at large. The Sinaloa cartel that Guzman founded in 1989 is still hugely powerful.

Judge Brian Cogan has taken the extraordinary step of holding the trial behind closed doors. Others are already in jail, housed in special wings to protect them from reprisals.

Guzman has been held in solitary confinement in NY since Mexico extradited him and he spends 23 hours a day in his cell. 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.

Last year, there was a record 29,000 murders in Mexico. Arrested for the first time in Guatemala in 1993, El Chapo spent more than seven years in a Mexican prison before his first escape in 2001.

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

In a secret meeting with actor Sean Penn which the Hollywood star wrote about in Rolling Stone magazine in 2016, Guzman boasted: "I supply more heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana than anybody else in the world".

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