‘El Chapo’ Guzman trial begins


In opening statements earlier than jurors in federal district courtroom in New York, Assistant US Legal professional Adam Fels described Guzman as a person who went from small-town seller to kingpin able to turning $10 million cocaine offers.

Fels alleged that Guzman had a military of a whole bunch of males with assault rifles in Mexico and he himself had a monogrammed, diamond-encrusted handgun and a gold-plated assault rifle.

“Guzman himself pulled the set off and ordered the disposal of our bodies,” Fels stated.

Protection legal professional Jeffrey Lichtman stated Guzman spent vital time in Mexican prisons, throughout which period the circulate of medicine into the US by no means slowed down.

“But, he is blamed for being the chief. The reality is, he was the chief of nothing,” Lichtman stated.

Guzman’s escapes from Mexican prisons furthered the parable of him as a harmful cartel boss, his lawyer stated.

“A conviction of Guzman is the largest prize the prosecution may have dreamed of,” he instructed the jurors. “They declare he’s the largest drug seller on this planet. It is false.”

Guzman, carrying a darkish swimsuit and tie, smiled and waved to somebody as he entered courtroom.

Earlier than opening statements Tuesday, a juror — in a letter to the decide that was learn aloud in courtroom — requested to be dismissed from the case as a result of she has suffered from anxiousness since jury choice. The prosecution and protection agreed to excuse the juror.

The protection was unable to complete its assertion due to time and can decide it up Wednesday morning.

Unprecedented safety

The courtroom proceedings — probably the most vital prison trial in many years — come practically two years after Guzman’s extradition from Mexico.

The person as soon as thought of the world’s greatest drug trafficker is accused of heading a prison enterprise that spanned continents and triggered waves of bloodshed all through his native Mexico.

His long-awaited trial, which may final 4 months, started beneath unprecedented safety measures, together with armed escorts for the anonymous and partly sequestered jurors.
Torture on YouTube, drugs in jalapeño cans: That's part of what the government says it has on 'El Chapo'

Closely armed federal marshals and officers with bomb-sniffing canines stood guard exterior the courthouse. Those that wished to witness the trial in individual needed to undergo two separate safety screenings — an X-ray machine and steel detector — to enter the courthouse and the same screening to enter the courtroom. The Brooklyn Bridge shut downs every time a police motorcade — together with an ambulance and a SWAT workforce — shuttled Guzman to and from the Manhattan federal lockup.

“El Chapo, regardless of his protection that he was only a minor participant, was reputed to be the progressive spirit behind the Sinaloa cartel,” stated Bruce Bagley, an professional on Mexico’s drug cartels on the College of Miami. “He’s, in some ways, a survivor.”

His seize fueled an alarming surge in violence

Guzman, 61, has pleaded not responsible. If convicted of worldwide drug trafficking, conspiring to homicide rivals, gun fees and cash laundering, he faces a sentence of life in jail.

He allegedly earned practically $14 billion as kingpin of the Sinaloa drug cartel, which employed planes, boats and submarines to maneuver a whole bunch of tons of Colombian cocaine into Mexico earlier than transport it to US distribution hubs.

A near-mythical determine celebrated in Mexican ballads, Guzman oversaw the smuggling of cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and marijuana to wholesale distributors in Atlanta, Chicago, Miami, New York, Arizona and Los Angeles, federal prosecutors have alleged.

'El Chapo' Guzman's trial gets a jury. He awaits permission to hug his wife

He’s additionally accused of participating in no less than 30 killings as he reigned over one among Mexico’s oldest and most influential cartels.

The protection positioned blame for the persevering with drug commerce on Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada, a person who they are saying benefited from Guzman’s seize. Lichtman alleges the present and former presidents of Mexico “acquired a whole bunch of hundreds of thousands of {dollars} in bribes from his group.”

A spokesman for Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto denied the accusation in an announcement posted on Twitter. “The federal government of Enrique Peña Nieto persecuted, captured, and extradited the prison Joaquin Guzman Loera,” the assertion stated. “The accusations made by his lawyer are utterly false and defamatory.”

Former President Felipe Calderón additionally denied the accusation by way of Twitter. “The claims made by Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman’s lawyer are completely false. Neither he nor the Sinaloa cartel nor anybody else made any funds to me.”

Fels, the US legal professional, stated in courtroom Tuesday that the federal government will show Guzman is responsible via audio and video proof, textual content messages and testimony from regulation enforcement officers and former associates of Guzman.

Fels stated the federal government had entry to his communications, regardless of his concerted efforts to maintain communications non-public.

“For a brief time frame, the federal government was listening, the federal government was recording,” Fels stated.

Cartel battles bloody Mexico

“No single particular person has been extra consequential than Guzman within the waves of violence that Mexico has skilled within the final decade,” stated David Shirk, director of the Justice in Mexico program on the College of San Diego.

Guzman reportedly initiated lethal conflicts with different main cartels that led to huge spikes in violent crime from 2008 to 2012, in accordance with Shirk.

His seize and extradition to the US early final 12 months created an influence vacuum that fueled an alarming surge within the bloodletting.

“Of all the symbols concerned within the kingpin technique (of concentrating on high-profile crime leaders so as to weaken their group), El Chapo was by far crucial as a result of he grew like a rocket, as a result of he turned so wealthy and so highly effective,” Bagley stated.

‘An equal alternative corrupter’

Over 20 years, Guzman remodeled the Sinaloa cartel into one of many world’s most vital organized crime teams, Bagley stated. Its dominance of the worldwide cocaine commerce started with Guzman’s implementation of a extra horizontal management construction, his propensity for violence and largesse towards corrupt public officers.

“He unfold cash round in industrial portions, as they are saying in Mexican Spanish,” Bagley stated. “He was prepared to pay million-dollar bribes or much more — going from the municipality to the state as much as the federal authorities. He was an equal-opportunity corrupter.”

Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán Fast Facts

The case in opposition to Guzman will probably be constructed partially on the testimony of greater than a dozen cooperating witnesses, together with former cartel associates already incarcerated or who’ve been given new identities and relocated by the US authorities.

Their names have remained unknown to Guzman’s protection legal professionals till the eve of the trial, with prosecutors arguing that witnesses in earlier circumstances have turned up lifeless.

Amongst those that may testify in opposition to Guzman are twin brothers from Chicago’s West Side, Margarito and Pedro Flores. They operated a wholesale cocaine and heroin distribution group for Guzman earlier than their arrests in 2008, a federal indictment states.

The twins turned informants for the feds and went into protecting custody, in accordance with the Drug Enforcement Administration. The Flores brothers pleaded responsible to narcotics distribution conspiracy after recording cellphone conversations wherein Guzman is heard agreeing to lower the value of a load of heroin.

Their father was “kidnapped and presumed killed as a result” of their cooperation with federal authorities, a protection legal professional stated when the Flores brothers have been sentenced to 14 years in jail in 2015.

Sinaloa cartel stays dominant participant in cocaine commerce

Guzman can be recognized for his dramatic jail escapes. In 2001, whereas serving a 20-year sentence for prison affiliation and bribery in Mexico, he reportedly broke out by hiding in a laundry cart. He was recaptured in 2014 at a lodge within the Pacific seaside city of Mazatlan. However the subsequent 12 months he escaped once more via a gap in his cell that led to a mile-long underground tunnel.

Chasing 'El Chapo': Prison breaks, hideaways and life on the lam

In January 2016, authorities closed in on Guzman at a hideaway within the coastal metropolis of Los Mochis. The subsequent 12 months — sooner or later earlier than the inauguration of US President Donald Trump — he was extradited aboard a flight from Juarez, Mexico, to New York.

He has been held in solitary confinement in a small cell on the federal lockup in Manhattan.

Practically two years after his extradition, the Sinaloa cartel stays the dominant participant within the cocaine commerce, in accordance with Bagley.

“Regardless of El Chapo’s obvious demise and his extradition to the US — and I do take into account it a remaining demise — and the shortcoming of his kids to take over the group, Sinaloa has saved a level of coherence due to its enterprise mannequin,” he stated.

Mentioned Shirk: “As necessary as he was to Mexico’s drug commerce, in the end Guzman will probably be supplanted by different traffickers so long as the drug conflict wages on.”

CNN’s Steve Almasy contributed to this report.

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