Mexican drug lord Joaquin (El Chapo) Guzman, as head of a murderous multi-billion dollar empire, exported enough cocaine for every American citizen to snort a line — and then some, a federal prosecutor charged Tuesday.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Adam Fels, in his opening argument at the long-awaited trial of the lethal drug kingpin, promised to expose the staggering breadth and relentless violence of Guzman’s lucrative business.
“Money, drugs, murder — a vast global drug trafficking organization,” Fels told the Brooklyn Federal Court jury. “That is what this case is about, and that is what the evidence in this trial will prove. We are confident you will find that the defendant is guilty of all the crimes charged.” Artwork by Elizabeth Williams AP ( click on image to see larger)
Many of the damning details, the prosecutor promised, would come right from the defendant’s mouth. Text messages, audio recordings and even a video of El Chapo pulling the trigger of a weapon will offer the panel an inside look at the Sinaloa Cartel under the bloodthirsty defendant’s leadership, Fels declared.
“What Guzman did not count on is that for a short period of time, the government was listening — the government was recording,” said the prosecutor. “Guzman left behind a treasure trove of evidence implicating him in (his) drug empire.”
A stoic-looking Guzman, appearing calm and engaged while seated between his translator and defense attorney Eduardo Balarezo, wore a navy suit and a blue-striped tie to the first day of his trial.
He waved warmly to his wife, Emma Coronel, as she entered the courtroom — and later popped his head up to gesture goodbye as she left.
Emma Coronel seated in courtroom the first day of trial.
“I bought him the tie,” his wife proudly told reporters
Guzman, 61, spent the last 22 months in solitary confinement, with a Brooklyn judge even blocking his wife from giving El Chapo a courtroom hug. The defendant famously escaped from a pair of Mexican prisons in 2011 and 2015, two major events in the evolution of his mythic persona.
There was intensive security inside and outside the courthouse for what’s likely the last chapter for the notorious narco-terrorist. Heavily-armed officers stood guard on the Brooklyn streets, and a media horde arrived for the trial’s start.