El Chapo Trial Begins In New York City

By Beth Leipholtz 11/08/18

Joaquín Guzmán is accused of running the Sinaloa drug cartel from 1989 to 2014.

El Chapo in custody being taken to trial
Photo via YouTube

The high-security trial for one of the world’s most well-known criminals—Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán—began this week in New York City. 

The federal trial, according to AFP, began Monday (Nov. 5) and is expected to last about four months. 

Guzmán is accused of having led the Sinaloa cartel from 1989 to 2014. During those years, prosecutors say that the cartel was responsible for bringing 340,892 pounds of cocaine into the U.S. from Mexico, in addition to heroin, methamphetamine and marijuana—making a total of $14 billion. 

Currently facing charges of international drug trafficking, conspiring to kill rivals, gun charges and money laundering, Guzmán was extradited from Mexico in January 2017 and has been in solitary confinement in the U.S. ever since, spending 23 hours per day in his cell.

He is only allowed visits from his lawyer and twin daughters—even his wife, Emma Coronel, is not allowed to see him. 

This is not the first time Guzmán has been captured. In 1992, he was arrested in Guatemala and spent more than seven years in prison, but then escaped in 2001. He was again arrested in 2014, then escaped 14 months later before being arrested most recently in January 2016. 

While the alleged cartel leader maintains his innocence, the government has been building a case against him, which includes more than 300,000 pages of documents and at least 117,000 recordings.

AFP reports that of the several hundred witnesses will testify, some are in witness protection programs while others are in jail. 

The trial is expected to be the most expensive federal trial in U.S. history, costing millions of dollars. 

Jury selection took place Monday (Nov. 5) through Wednesday. CNN reports that five men and seven women were chosen. The 12 individuals include “several immigrants, Spanish speakers and people with relatives in law enforcement.”

Some potential jurors expressed fear over being involved in the trial.

"What scares me is that his family could come after jurors and their families," one of the women told the court, according to AFP. She added that she felt "nervous" and "unsafe."

CNN reports that other jurors were dismissed for various reasons; one juror asked for Guzmán’s autograph and another said he liked to order a sandwich called “El Chapo.”

The 12 chosen jurors will remain anonymous and will be escorted to federal court daily by U.S. Marshals, CNN reports.  

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Beth is a Minnesota girl who got sober at age 20. By day she is a website designer, and in her spare time she enjoys writing about recovery at www.lifetobecontinued.com, doing graphic design and spending time with her boyfriend and three dogs. Find Beth on LinkedInInstagram and Twitter.