Nearly two years after his extradition from Mexico, notorious cartel boss Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman Loera faces an American jury on Tuesday in the most significant criminal trial in decades.
The man once considered the world’s biggest drug trafficker is accused of heading a criminal enterprise that spanned continents and triggered waves of bloodshed throughout his native Mexico.
His long-awaited trial before US District Court Judge Brian Cogan in Brooklyn federal court begins with opening statements Tuesday under unprecedented security measures, including armed escorts for the anonymous and partly sequestered jurors.
Even before the start of a trial that could last four months, heavily armed federal marshals and officers with bomb-sniffing dogs stand guard outside the courthouse.
Metal detectors greet visitors at the entrance to the courtroom.
The Brooklyn Bridge shuts downs each time a police motorcade — including an ambulance and SWAT team — shuttles Guzman to and from the Manhattan federal lockup.
“El Chapo, despite his defense that he was just a minor player, was reputed to be the innovative spirit behind the Sinaloa cartel,” said Bruce Bagley, an expert on Mexico’s drug cartels at the University of Miami. “He is, in many ways, a survivor.”Guzman, 61, has pleaded not guilty. If convicted of international drug trafficking, conspiring to murder rivals, gun charges and money laundering, he faces a sentence of life in prison.
He allegedly earned nearly $14 billion as kingpin of the Sinaloa drug cartel, which employed planes, boats and submarines to move hundreds of tons of Colombian cocaine into Mexico before shipping it to US distribution hubs.