In this Dec. 3, 2018 photo, Australian tourists Wayne Burg and his daughter Lydia to stand in front of Brooklyn’s federal district court in New York, where they were viewing the trial of the Mexican drug trafficker Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman. Burg is a criminal lawyer in his own country, and said that he did not want to miss the chance to witness a day in the process of “El Chapo.” (AP Photo/Claudia Torrens)
NEW YORK – There was a time, after a spectacular prison escape, as Joaquin Guzman was the most wanted man in the world.
The thrill of being able to see the man known as El Chapo up-close — and lives to tell the story — is drawing curious New Yorkers, fans of the TV crime shows and even tourists to the Brooklyn courtroom where the infamous Mexican drug trafficker, is being tried on charges that could put him in a prison of the V. S. for life.
Some days, they are just two people among all the officers of justice, journalists, security officials and a team of lawyers who fill the courtroom. Other days, you might see five. They sit upright in the viewer and look up, so that they can see Guzman’s face. Also they look with curiosity at his wife, Emma Coronel, who sits in the courtroom from the public gallery almost every day.
“It was surreal. It was as if I was seeing the (Netflix) TV-show ‘El Chapo,'” said spectator Peter Stolt, 23, who were present on three days of the trial in November and hopes to see at least one more.
Stolt, who recently graduated from Muhlenberg College in Pennsylvania and is interviewing for a job in New York, said that he stood in line outside the building, at approximately 6:30 pm to ensure that he gets a chair. The thing he was most impressed, he said, when Miguel Angel Martinez, a former assistant of Guzman, who is now a prosecution witness, testified in dramatic detail how he survived several attacks on his life, that he claimed were ordered by Guzman, after an ominous serenade by a Mexican brass band.
“The grenade, the song. … It’s crazy. That was scary. It’s crazy that we hear this first-hand,” he said.
The diminutive Guzman, whose nickname means “Shorty” in Spanish, was extradited to the United States last year to face charges accusing him of running the Sinaloa cartel, which smuggled tons of cocaine into the U.S.
The six weeks of testimony from law enforcement officials, a jailed cocaine kingpin from Colombia and flashy Mexican drug smugglers have contained enough material to fill several seasons of “Miami Vice” or “Narcos.” There is a testimony about the secret smuggling tunnels built under the border, attempts of murder, bribery of a high-level police officials, private jets filled with millions of dollars in cash, and factories churning of cocaine filled cans disguised as hot pepper containers.
Guzman’s lawyers say that the lowlife cooperators are in an attempt to frame him and get an easier sentence in their own trafficking cases.
Joaquin Martinez, a 55-year-old Mexican who has lived in New York for more than a decade, said the see of El Chapo in person was worth the trip from Manhattan to Brooklyn. However, he expected him with a mustache, just as in many of the photos that people have seen him in the past few years.
“It took me a few seconds to realize that it was he. To be honest, he looked like … an ordinary person,” he said.
He was more under the impression of Coronel, Guzman, the woman he thought walked around the courtroom full of confidence, as if she were in her own home. She sat in a bench in front of him.
“I could smell the scent of her perfume,” said Martinez, who is the owner of and manages a number of restaurants in New York. Hearing the phone recordings of drug dealings in the courtroom under the impression of him, he said, but also with the prosecutors showed as evidence a photo of Amado Carrillo, Mexican drug lord who is famous in his own country and who died in 1997 in a plastic surgery operation on his face.
Spectators go through security in the lobby of the building and the need to remove their shoes to go through a second metal detector and X-ray bag scanner on the eighth floor. When they log on to a sheet.
Wayne Burg, a 49-year-old Australian criminal lawyer, went to the trial with his 21-year-old daughter, Lydia, of December during their holiday in New York. Go to the federal court to see El Chapo is a must-do for a Knicks game.
“The amount of drugs, the amount of money … these extraordinary levels,” said Burg, who ended up with his daughter in the overflow room, watching a video feed, because there was no place in the courtroom.
“We had a great vacation, but the case was one of the highlights!” he said.
Not all days are exciting.
Some members of the jury have dozed off as the technical aspects of the law enforcement of the drug searches are explained. Guzman, however, always seems to pay attention, to look for witnesses when they speak and whisper to his lawyers ears.
For those who are interested in going, there is still time. The trial lasts for two months.