NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – A man who wanted the autograph of the Mexican drug lord known as “El Chapo” has been dismissed as a potential juror.
The man admitted at jury selection on Tuesday that he asked a court officer to help him get the autograph of Joaquin Guzman. That was enough for the judge to disqualify him.
Another potential juror who had described himself as a Michael Jackson impersonator also was dismissed. Prosecutors had argued his profession made him too recognizable for a jury that’s being kept anonymous as a safety measure.
Guzman has pleaded not guilty to charges that his Sinaloa cartel smuggled tons of drugs into the United States and waged a campaign of violence to keep him in power.
The alleged drug kingpin is accused of running a cartel that laundered billions of dollars while overseeing ruthless kidnappings and murders.
Before dawn Monday, the 61-year-old was driven in a heavily armed motorcade from a Manhattan correction facility to Brooklyn, shutting down part of the Brooklyn Bridge.
Given the violent history of Guzman and his associates, the Eastern District of New York federal court is taking unprecedented measures to protect the potential jurors. Police and U.S. marshals are stationed outside the courthouse – not taking any chances with a man who escaped Mexican prison twice.
In an order issued in February, U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan said the jurors will remain anonymous and partially sequestered. Their names, addresses and places of employment will be kept confidential. They will also be transported to and from the courthouse by armed federal marshals.
Guzman’s lawyers fought to prevent an anonymous jury, arguing the lengths taken to protect the jurors might prejudice them.
Guzman was captured in Mexico in 2016 and extradited to the United States to stand trial. He’s accused of running a massive drug trafficking operation, along with money laundering, kidnapping and murder.
He’s pleaded not guilty to international drug trafficking, money laundering, kidnapping and murder. If convicted, he faces life behind bars.
The trial is expected to last about four months, and opening statements are scheduled for November 13.
(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)