'El Chapo' trial begins with prosecutors revealing chilling details of his 'thirst for blood'
It has been nearly ten years since a Brooklyn grand jury first handed one of many indictments against accused drug lord Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzmán, but now he is finally on trial for various drug conspiracy charges.
Due to the potential dangers of the case, a jury was gathered from an anonymous pool of 1,000 New Yorkers who were sent a 31-page questionnaire. Brooklyn federal judge Brian Cogan has said that the Sinaloa Cartel is known to employ "sicarios," aka hitmen, to take out their rivals and those that threaten their livelihoods.
Now, the jury have gathered in the Brooklyn federal court for the proceedings, where opening statements began on Tuesday, in which prosecutors detailed some chilling details from Guzmán's life, including his weaponry.
“Some of his favorites include a diamond-encrusted handgun with his initials on it and a gold-plated AK-47,” prosecutor Adam Fels said, before explaining how his "vast drug empire" was defended by a small private army consisting of hundreds "armed with assault rifles".
“He ordered his hit men to locate, kidnap, torture, interrogate, shoot and kill those rivals,” Fels said. “Not even Guzmán’s own family members were immune.”
The 61-year-old defendant - who is well-known for his elaborate prison escapes - was also accused of ordering the murder of one of his cousins, once he was suspected of cooperating with the authorities. “Money, drugs, murder and a vast global narcotics trafficking organization - that is what this case is about, and that is what the evidence in this case will prove,” Fels said.
However, the defence have claimed that prosecutors are simply trying to use him as a “scapegoat,” while the real culprit is still at large. Attorney Jeffrey Lichtman argued that the mastermind behind it al is actually Ismael 'El Mayo' Zambada, the current leader of the Sinaloa Cartel, a 70-year-old man he describes as being "the biggest drug trafficker in Mexico.”
“There’s another side to this story, an uglier side. This is a case that will require you to throw out much of what you were taught.
“[Zambada] has been allowed to operate for the last 55 years because he pays for it. He bribes the current president of Mexico and for good measure, the previous one as well. The US government pretends to want him. But somehow they can’t figure out where he is.”
He went on to reference the fact that Zambada's brother was cooperating with the United States government for this case, along with two of his sons - one of whom is believed to be the prosecution's first witness. Lichtman added that there will be the inclusion of “people who will make your skin crawl when they testify”.
“The government is using these gutter human beings to build their case. These are people who will be out soon among us. Some of them are already out,” he added, concluding that this is all taking place because “the conviction of Chapo Guzmán is the biggest prize they could ever imagine.”
“Open your minds to the possibility that government officials can be bribed,” he told jurors. “That American law enforcement can also be crooked.”
Both Mr Peña Nieto, the current President of Meico, and his predecessor Felipe Calderón, have denied the claims - with the latter calling the claims "absolutely false and reckless".