A tentative U.S. trial date for Joaquin Guzman, the Mexican drug lord known as "El Chapo," has been set for April 16, 2018.
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The trial date was set at the end of a hearing today in Brooklyn federal court in New York City. The drug kingpin appeared in court today in connection to the four potential witnesses in his case who have been convicted of crimes, preventing his federal public defenders from cross-examining them.
Guzman, appearing in navy scrubs and bright orange sneakers, told the court he wishes to keep his attorneys.
U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan today also addressed the defense's request to sit in the same room with Guzman at the high-security Metropolitan Correctional Center in Lower Manhattan where Guzman is being housed while preparing for trial. The defense asked for this change, saying they have 10,000 pages of discovery to go over and otherwise must hold up each page to the acrylic glass while meeting with Guzman.
Cogan referred a magistrate judge to visit the correctional facility to see whether there is a secure location where the defense and Guzman, 60, can meet.
Guzman, who was most recently recaptured in Mexico in January 2016, was extradited to the United States in January 2017 for alleged drug crimes.
The 17-count indictment filed in the Eastern District of New York against Guzman alleges that between 1989 and 2014, Guzman, as the leader of the Sinaloa drug cartel, ran a "criminal enterprise responsible for importing into the United States and distributing massive amounts of illegal narcotics and for conspiring to murder people who posed a threat to the narcotics enterprise," according to a Department of Justice statement.
The government is also demanding that Guzman surrender $14 billion "in drug proceeds and illicit profits," the Department of Justice said, profits that he allegedly smuggled into Mexico from the United States.
Guzman has pleaded not guilty. The Department of Justice said that "Guzman faces a sentence of mandatory life imprisonment, if convicted of the continuing criminal enterprise charge, and a maximum sentence of life on the remaining charges."
Guzman has twice escaped from prison in Mexico. The most recent escape was in 2015; he was recaptured in January 2016 and was extradited to the United States this January.
Robert Capers, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, earlier this year called Guzman's extradition a "milestone," saying that federal prosecutors from around the United States spent well over a decade investigating the suspect's alleged criminal activities.
Guzman led a "life of crime, violence, death and destruction" and continued to grow his empire during the times he has been in prison, Capers said at a news conference.
Guzman will face charges in six indictments from across the United States, the Justice Department said.
His next status hearing is set for Aug. 15.