Accused drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán pleaded not guilty in a New York federal court to the charges against him as prosecutors revealed in stunning detail how they intend to build and prove their case, the Washington Post reports. In a 56-page court filing, prosecutors asked a judge to order Guzmán detained indefinitely, laying out a history of the drug trade in the Americas and tracing how Guzmán rose to power in it through ruthlessness and efficiency. For nearly 30 years, they alleged, Guzmán built an international, multibillion-dollar business, protecting it with a “veritable army, ready to war with competitors and anyone Guzman deemed to be a traitor.” The filing declared that, “These last few decades have shown that Guzmán’s influence knows no bounds.”
Guzmán is charged in federal courts in six states with crimes that include leading a continuing criminal enterprise and importing and distributing narcotics. U.S. Attorney Robert Capers called the occasion “a milestone in our pursuit of Chapo Guzmán.” Guzmán faces a possible sentence of life in prison, and prosecutors are seeking a $14 billion forfeiture. As part of the extradition process, U.S. officials assured Mexico that he would not be given the death penalty. Prosecutors expect a large number of witnesses to testify against Guzmán, including dozens who have had face-to-face dealings with him and who can describe “every aspect of Guzman’s organization from its inception in the late 1980s through his building of an international empire.” They also said they expect testimony from Colombian cartel leaders and other suppliers, transporters, and U.S.-based distributors.