Once, after a spectacular prison escape, 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 living to tell the story - has attracted curious from all over New York, fans of television programs and even tourists in the Brooklyn courtroom where he is the infamous Mexican drug trafficker with charges that could put him in a US prison for life. For a few days, only a few people filled the courtroom with prosecutors, journalists, security officials and a team of lawyers. On other days people are more than double. They sit in the audience area and look up so they can see Guzman's face. They also look with curiosity at his wife, Emma Coronel, who sits almost every day in the public gallery of the court.
"It was surreal, it was like seeing the TV drama" El Chapo "(Netflix)," said Peter Stolt, 23, who took part in three days of the trial in November and hopes to present himself for at least one more. Stolt, who recently graduated from Muhlenberg College in Pennsylvania and is doing job interviews in New York, has lined up outside the courthouse around 6:30 am to make sure he has a seat. What struck him most was when Miguel Angel Martinez, a former assistant to Guzman who is now witness to the prosecution, testified dramatically how he survived several attacks on his life that he claimed were ordered by Guzman, one even after a funeral concert of a Mexican brass band. "The grenade, the song ... It's crazy, it was scary, it's crazy that you can hear it in person," he said.
Guzman, whose nickname means "Shorty" in Spanish, was extradited to the United States last year to deal with the Sinaloa cartel management charges, which smuggled tons of cocaine into the United States. The six weeks of testimony by law enforcement officials, a cocaine boss imprisoned by Colombia and flashy Mexican drug dealers were full of material to fill several seasons of the "Miami Vice" or "Narcos" dramas. There have been reports of secret smuggling tunnels built under the border, homicide attempts, bribing of high-ranking police officers, private jets full of millions of dollars in cash, and factories that churn out cans full of cocaine disguised as containers of chili pepper.
Guzman's lawyers say that dishonest collaborators are lying in an attempt to frame their guardian and get a milder conviction for drug trafficking cases alone.
Joaquin Martinez, a 55-year-old Mexican who has lived in New York for more than a decade, said that seeing El Chapo in person was worth the trip from Manhattan to Brooklyn. However, he expected him to have a mustache, as in many of the photos people have seen over the years. "It took me a couple of seconds to figure out it was him." To be honest, he seemed ... a normal person, "he said. He was more impressed by Mrs. Coronel, Guzman's wife, who moved to court with ease, as if she were at home. Martinez sat on a bench in front of Guzman. "I could smell her," said Martinez, who owns and operates several restaurants in New York. The hearing in the hall of telephone recordings on drug trafficking struck him, but also when prosecutors showed proof of a photograph of Amado Carrillo, a Mexican drug lord famous in his country and who died in 1997 during an operation plastic surgery to change its features.
Viewers pass through security in the lobby of the building and need to take off their shoes to go through a second metal detector and an X-ray scanner on the eighth floor. Then they sign up on a sheet.
Wayne Burg, a 49-year-old Australian criminal lawyer, went to see the trial with his 21-year-old daughter, Lydia, during their December holiday in New York. Going to the federal court to see El Chapo was like a "must" before a Knicks game. "The amount of drugs, the amount of money ... these are extraordinary levels," said Burg, who, as there was no room in the courtroom, ended up with his daughter in the next room, where he could follow the video process. "We had a nice holiday, but the process was one of the highlights!" He said.