Accused drug lord Joaquin “el Chapo” Guzman Loera wants to move his upcoming trial for cocaine trafficking out of Brooklyn federal court to avoid the prejudicial effect of a twice-a-day security convoy closing the Brooklyn Bridge to move him from and back to his jail in Manhattan.
Instead of Brooklyn, lawyers for Guzman say he should be tried in federal court in Manhattan, where he could be moved between the jail and court through a tunnel without risking juror prejudice, or in Philadelphia, where the jail is also connected to the court by a tunnel.
“The security display is entirely focused on the identity of the defendant,” Guzman’s change of venue motion said. “It is not akin to dispassionate news coverage of a proceeding – it is akin to driving a sign, illuminated by sirens and flanked by police vehicles, marked with government insignia, that says ‘dangerous man inside.’ “
Guzman, 60, was extradited from Mexico last year to face charges that as head of the Sinaloa Cartel he used violence and intimidation to run a sprawling drug operation that moved 20 tons of cocaine as well as other drugs into the U.S. from 1989 to 2014.
He twice escaped prisons in Mexico, and officials said he was detained at the Metropolitan Correctional Center, the high-rise federal jail in Manhattan, for security reasons. His trial is scheduled to begin on Sept. 5 before U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan in Brooklyn.
Guzman lawyer Eduardo Balarezo attached news photos of the security convoy that transports him to and from Brooklyn, including several black Suburban SUV-style vehicles, police cars, an NYPD emergency response vehicle and an FDNY ambulance.
Moving the trial out of Brooklyn, Balarezo said, would not only reduce the public “theatrics and disruption” that could prejudice jurors, but eliminate the diversion of law enforcement resources to transport Guzman.
“The interests of justice plainly weigh against transporting the defendant in this public, bridge-closing, riot-gear-wearing, phalanx of cars and officers – a process which will grow only more frequent and visible as trial approaches,” the lawyer wrote.
A spokesman for prosecutors declined comment on the new motion, which was filed on Sunday