A Quick Recap While They Pick The Jurors: Gothamist


Jury selection in the trial of notorious alleged drug kingpin El Chapo, born Joaquin Guzman, began Monday morning in Brooklyn, kicking off what promises to be an extended legal battle.

That might plunge New Yorkers into an extended logistical nightmare. Authorities opted to hold Guzman in a Manhattan federal jail, keeping him in solitary confinement for two reasons: One, to block him from communicating messages to his alleged cartel, and two, to prevent him from escaping for a third time (Guzman has famously disappeared from his cell on two separate occasions in Mexico, roughly a decade apart). The trial, however, takes place in Brooklyn, and during pre-trial proceedings, shuttling him across the Brooklyn Bridge required a full police motorcade, with helicopter cover and a SWAT team chaperone and an ambulance, just in case.

Shutting down this busy commuter corridor every morning and evening at roughly rush hour does not seem particularly sustainable, and has generated speculation that the drug lord might be housed in a secret location on-site. Authorities want to keep his location under wraps, but nonetheless, we have contacted the Department of Transportation and the NYPD to ask what the implications might be for those of you who drive across the Brooklyn Bridge to get to work. We will update if we hear back.

Guzman’s reputation—alleged boss of Mexico’s Sinaloa cartel, among the world’s most prominent drug trafficking operations—may precede him, but to judge by the personal “Free El Chapo” campaign this guy launched outside the courthouse today, some people seem to be slightly unclear on the circumstances surrounding Guzman’s trial. Let’s dive in.

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This guy pacing around outside the courthouse yelling “free El Chapo.”

I ask, “Why should he be free?”

He responds, “He’s not charged with killing anyone is he?”

“Well, he’s accused of 33 murders.”

“Oh shit, really?”

— Keegan Hamilton (@keegan_hamilton) November 5, 2018

Why is El Chapo on trial?

Guzman faces 17 charges related to murder conspiracy, money laundering, firearms—in short, all the things you might expect from someone allegedly running a powerful and firmly entrenched international drug cartel—and reaching back to the 1980s. Prosecutors only achieved his 2017 extradition from Mexico to the United States on the condition that they would not seek the death penalty. Instead, they have asked for life imprisonment and a staggering $14 billion reimbursement to cover the money Guzman allegedly made off his drug trade.

Guzman stands accused of architecting scores of murders, along with the illicit transport of over 200 tons of cocaine, and pleaded not guilty to every count against him.

Why did the U.S. extradite El Chapo?

In short, because he is suspected of overseeing the smuggling huge loads of cocaine, marijuana, heroine, and methamphetamine into the U.S. for domestic distribution, covertly carting out the aforementioned billions in drug sales. According to NBC, Mexico wanted to complete the extradition before Donald Trump took office on January 20, 2017.

How did El Chapo get caught?

One thing I think about a lot: That time Sean Penn helped deliver one of the world’s most wanted criminals into the hands of authorities, extremely on accident, thanks to a fun Rolling Stone article he wrote in 2016. In precious and overwrought terms, Penn detailed a secret meeting Guzman (for reasons that remain unclear to me) granted him. It is a self-important piece of journalism, and its author seemed oblivious to its potential consequences—as did Guzman, to whom Rolling Stone reportedly showed the article pre-publication.

In his inadvertent exposé, Penn acknowledges that the U.S. and Mexican governments likely tracked his movements and his communications, because of course they did: He is a high-profile, Oscar-winning actor, not an investigative journalist. Still, in his role as the latter, he published an interview with Guzman in which the two discussed the illegal nature of the drug lord’s alleged business. From Penn’s trail, authorities pinpointed the location of Guzman’s mountain hideout.

Is Sean Penn safe?

I don’t know, are any of us?

Are the jurors safe?

According to CBS New York, jurors’ identities will be kept completely anonymous, despite complaints from the defense that the extreme precautions taken to protect their privacy—along with the armored guard dispatched to transport them to and from the courthouse—might lead them to believe they have reason to fear the man on trial. Thanks to the NY Post, though, we do know that the would-be juror pool includes one Michael Jackson impersonator.

When will the trial begin?
Opening arguments are scheduled for November 13th.

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