NEW YORK — The trial of accused Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman will start with attorneys’ opening statements in a federal court docket in Brooklyn on Tuesday, amid intense public consideration and extraordinary safety measures.
Federal prosecutors say that as chief of Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel, Guzman, 61, directed large shipments of heroin, cocaine, marijuana and methamphetamine certain for the USA. He faces 17 legal counts and a possible life sentence if convicted.
In addition to smuggling medication to the USA, the Sinaloa Cartel has performed a significant function in narco violence between rival gangs that has torn areas of Mexico aside and defied successive governments.
Greater than 200,000 folks have been killed — many in cartel feuds — because the Mexican authorities despatched troops in to tackle the drug gangs in 2006.
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Guzman’s attorneys have signalled that they intend to downplay their shopper’s function within the cartel and argue that the prosecutors’ witnesses are motivated by self-interest and never plausible.
Guzman, who twice dramatically escaped from Mexican most safety prisons, has been stored in solitary confinement in Manhattan and transported to court docket in Brooklyn in a closely guarded motorcade.
The safety round him is so strict that U.S. District Choose Brian Cogan, who’s presiding over the case, final week denied a movement by Guzman asking to hug his spouse earlier than the trial.
The jurors will stay nameless and be escorted to and from by armed U.S. marshals. Prosecutors have mentioned the safety is critical due to Guzman’s historical past of intimidating and even ordering murders of potential witnesses. Guzman’s attorneys have referred to as these claims unfounded.
WATCH: U.S. trial of Mexico’s ‘El Chapo’ begins amid heavy safety
Prosecutors have additionally taken extraordinary measures to guard witnesses they plan to name in the course of the trial, which might last as long as 4 months.
In response to court docket filings, these witnesses will embody former Sinaloa Cartel members and others concerned within the drug commerce who at the moment are cooperating with the U.S. authorities. None have been publicly named, and a few could testify below aliases.
Guzman was one among world’s most wished fugitives till he was captured in January 2016 in his native Sinaloa. He was extradited to the USA a yr later.
In 2009, Forbes Journal put him on its checklist of the world’s richest folks, with an estimated US$1-billion fortune however investigators say it’s unimaginable to know precisely how a lot he was price.
Guzman used his wealth to purchase off politicians, police chiefs, troopers and judges, Mexican prosecutors say. His nickname, a reference to his 5 foot six inch (1.67 m) top, is commonly translated in English as “Shorty.”
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A number of former Guzman associates are recognized to have struck offers to cooperate with U.S. prosecutors, elevating the likelihood that they are going to seem on the witness stand.
They embody Vicente Zambada, son of prime Sinaloa Cartel determine Ismael Zambada, who pledged to cooperate in a plea settlement made public final week, and Chicago-born twins Pedro and Margarito Flores, one-time drug traffickers who secretly taped Guzman.
The defence shall be spearheaded by Eduardo Balarezo and William Purpura, who beforehand defended Mexican drug lord Alfredo Beltran Leyva, and Jeffrey Lichtman, greatest recognized for securing the acquittal of mafia boss John Gotti’s son.
Beltran Leyva, as soon as a companion and later a rival of Guzman, was discovered responsible of U.S. drug fees and sentenced to life in jail by a federal decide in Washington final yr.