Mexican drug lord Joaquin “Chapo” Guzman goes on trial in Brooklyn, New York, November 13 in one of the most anticipated legal happenings of the year.
Extradited by Mexico to the United States in January 2O17, Guzman, the alleged former leader of the Sinaloa Cartel, has pleaded not guilty to 11 charges of importing cocaine, heroin, cannabis and methamphetamine into the United States. Prosecutors will also try to prove his links to several murders that he allegedly ordered while running the cartel.
Prosecutors intend to call former cartel members, as well as U.S. and Mexican government employees, to the stand to testify against Guzman. Many of the witnesses are serving sentences in U.S. prisons and have been guaranteed protection during the remainder of their incarceration.
In a recent interview, published in infobae.com, Mike Vigil, a former director of operations for the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), pointed to a key piece of video evidence that he believes will be crucial in convicting Guzman.
He was referring to a video shot during the extraordinary visit that Mexican actress Kate del Castillo and U.S. actor Sean Penn made to the Sinaloa jungle to meet Guzman in 2015. In the video that was first posted on the Rolling Stone Web site, Guzman admits he has been involved in the drug trade since he was 15 years old and predicts that trafficking would continue whether he was arrested or not. In an interview written up by Penn for the same magazine, Guzmán acknowledged he had a “fleet of submarines, airplanes, trucks and boats” and that he supplied “more heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana than anybody else in the world.”
“His lawyers are going to attack the witnesses on whether they have struck a deal with authorities, but there is no evidence so overwhelming as the video, which speaks for itself.”
Guzman’s eagerness to respond to del Castillo’s attentions was in keeping with his reputation as having a “weakness for the ladies,” Vigil said. On two occasions when Guzman was arrested in Mexico, he had left his isolated jungle hideaway and returned to a coastal city for a rendezvous with his wife.
On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan denied Guzman’s request to embrace his wife before the jury enters the courtroom next Tuesday on the first day of the trial.
According to the Associated Press, Guzman has been held in solitary confinement and has been barred from seeing his wife out of concerns he could pass messages to his cohorts.