The trial of notorious Mexican drug kingpin Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman begins in a NY court on Monday with the selection of 12 anonymous jurors.
U.S. prosecutors say that as the head of the Sinaloa Cartel since 2003, Guzman directed the movement of multi-ton shipments of drugs including heroin, cocaine, marijuana, and methamphetamine across borders and into the United States. Guzman sat at the defense table listening through an interpreter and wearing street clothes - a dark suit and a white shirt with an open collar - instead a jail uniform for the first time since he was extradicted to the United States early a year ago.
Potential jurors arrived at the courthouse Monday to find it under tight security that included heavily armed officers, some doing sweeps with bomb-sniffing dogs. If convicted, he faces life in prison.
Guzman, 61, formerly led the Sinaloa Cartel, named after its base in the Mexican state of Sinaloa. Prosecutors have also sought to hide the identity of cooperating witnesses out of concerns the cartel could seek retribution, while a judge is keeping the jury anonymous to protect them from intimidation.
The legal proceedings begin with its jury selection on Monday, November 5, in Brooklyn. The mammoth trial in a Brooklyn federal court, which will cost millions of dollars and is expected to last more than four months, will see Chapo, one of the world's most notorious criminals, face the U.S. justice system.
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So far only two potential jurors have expressed fear about safety.
"What scares me is that his family could come after jurors and their families", one of the women told the court, just feet away from where Guzman was sitting, saying she felt "nervous" and "unsafe".
Image: The shower where El Chapo escaped through a tunnel in 2015. In the United States, opioid addiction has spiralled into an epidemic. He's accused of running a massive drug trafficking operation, along with money laundering, kidnapping and murder.
USA prosecutors have spent years piecing together a sweeping case against Guzman, which they hope will end with the 61-year-old spending the rest of his life in a maximum-security United States prison.
Guzman has pleaded not guilty to charges of running a massive drug-trafficking operation in North America, including money laundering, kidnapping and murder in cities throughout the United States, including Chicago, Miami and NY.
It is alleged that from 1989 to 2014, the cartel smuggled at least 340,892 pounds (154,626 kilograms) of cocaine into the United States, as well as heroin, methamphetamine and marijuana, raking in $14bn (£11bn). The Sinaloa cartel that Guzman founded in 1989 is still hugely powerful. He spends 23 hours a day in his cell.