Reputation precedes 'El Chapo' as US trial approaches

Joaquin El Chapo Guzman trial begins in New York Monday but it will be behind closed doors

Accused Mexican drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman's trial is scheduled to begin today with jury selection in a United States federal court in Brooklyn.

Guzman has pleaded not guilty to charges of running a massive drug-trafficking operation in North America, including money laundering, kidnapping and murder in cities throughout the United States, including Chicago, Miami and NY.

USA prosecutors have spent years piecing together a sweeping case against Guzman, which they hope will end with the 61-year-old spending the rest of his life in a maximum-security U.S. prison.

The potential jurors arrived at the courthouse Monday to find it under tight security that included heavily armed officers, some doing sweeps with bomb-sniffing dogs.

At least some of the several hundred witnesses expected to testify are in witness protection programs or are already in jail, housed in special wings to protect them from reprisals.

El Chapo pleaded not guilty to all the crimes against him - worldwide drug trafficking, gun charges, money laundering, and more.

Guzman escaped prison twice in Mexico, once in a laundry basket in 2001 after running the cartel from a cell for seven years.

Prosecutors say Joaquin Archivaldo Guzman Loera led the Sinaloa Cartel, an alleged criminal enterprise that imported and distributed massive amounts of drugs into the United States, between January 1989 and December 2014. US Marshals will escort them to and from the federal court every day.




Opening statements are scheduled to begin on November 13.

USA prosecutors say that as the head of the Sinaloa Cartel, Guzman directed the movement of multi-ton shipments of drugs including heroin, cocaine, marijuana and methamphetamine across borders and into the United States.

Prosecutors say Guzman's operation earned more than $14 billion.

El Chapo made world headlines in July 2015 when he slipped out of his cell at the maximum security Altiplano federal prison via a mile-long underground tunnel.

Until he was recaptured in early 2016 - and extradited to the United States in 2017 - he seemed largely untouchable.

"It's probably set up to be the most expensive trial in the history of the U.S.", said Rob Heroy, a North Carolina lawyer who has defended other Mexican drug barons.

El Chapo - "Shorty", for his 5-foot-6 stature - has been an iconic figure in the drug trade for decades. Some mentioned they were aware he had escaped from prison in Mexico, and others recalled how he did an interview with actor Sean Penn while he was on the run. McCoy reported from NY.

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