‘El Chapo’ is hauled off to jail that has held terrorists
In a scene U.S. authorities had dreamed of for decades, Mexican drug lord and escape artist Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman was hauled into an American courtroom Friday and then taken away to an ultra-secure jail that has held some of the world’s most dangerous terrorists and mobsters.
Holding his unshackled hands behind his back, a dazed-looking Guzman quietly entered a not-guilty plea to drug trafficking and other charges at a Brooklyn courthouse ringed by squad cars, officers with assault rifles and bomb-sniffing dogs.
“He’s a man known for a life of crime, violence, death and destruction, and now he’ll have to answer for that,” Robert Capers, the U.S. attorney in Brooklyn, said at a news conference.
The court appearance came hours after Guzman’s Thursday night extradition from Mexico, where he had become something of a folk hero for two brazen prison escapes.
Guzman, who is in his 50s, was ordered held without bail in a special Manhattan jail unit where other high-risk inmates – including Mafia boss John Gotti and several close associates of Osama bin Laden – spent their time awaiting trial.
Prosecutors described Guzman as the murderous overseer of a three-decade campaign of smuggling, brutality and corruption that made his Sinaloa cartel a fortune while fueling an epidemic of cocaine abuse and related violence in the U.S. in the 1980s and ‘90s.
Guzman faces the possibility of life in prison. To get Mexico to hand him over, prosecutors agreed not to seek the death penalty. They are also demanding he forfeit $14 billion in assets.
Outside court, Guzman defense attorney Michael Schneider said: “I haven’t seen any evidence that indicates to me that Mr. Guzman’s done anything wrong.”