Federal prosecutors in Brooklyn today detailed “acts of violence and certain drug trafficking activity” they want to introduce at the trial of Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, including murder, torture and kidnapping.
Guzman, who has pleaded not guilty, is accused of importing “massive quantities of heroin, cocaine, marijuana and methamphetamine into the United States” and generating billions of dollars in illegal profits. His trial is scheduled to begin in September.
He is accused of carrying out a host of crimes to make sure nothing stopped him.
“Starting in the 1980s, the defendant systematically kidnapped, assaulted, tortured and murdered individuals who threatened the success of his drug tracking activity,” federal prosecutors said in a new court filing.
According to the filing, Guzman led a 1992 attack on a rival cartel at a discotheque in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, that left six dead; after he escaped from prison in 2001, he instructed his subordinates to “locate, kidnap, torture and interrogate” rivals and, in at least one instance, “the defendant himself shot the rivals at point-blank range;” Guzman ordered a hit in retaliation for the killing of the son of one of his allies.
Such alleged acts show the “lengths to which Guzman would go to defend his narcotics trafficking enterprise,” federal prosecutors said.
The court will decide whether to allow prosecutors to introduce all this at the trial. The defense did not immediately respond to the government’s filing.
At trial, which is expected to last three months, prosecutors said they would prove Guzman started trafficking drugs at age 15, pioneered the use of cross-border tunnels, established relationships with Colombian cocaine suppliers, trafficked drugs from jail and imported fentanyl from China.
While prosecutors said all the alleged conduct is necessary to prove Guzman, 61, was “the preeminent leader of the Sinaloa Cartel,” an international drug-trafficking syndicate, one thing they do not want to be discussed is his potential life sentence.
“Because of the potential severe sentence in this case, any mention by the defendant of punishment during any part of the opening or closing statements, or during the presentation of evidence, will be extremely prejudicial to the government,” according to the new court filing.
The Mexican government extradited Guzman to the United States in January 2017 after he escaped from two prisons there.