(CNN Spanish) — The trial against Gennaro Garcia Luna in a federal court in New York moved forward with opening arguments this Monday.
García Luna was Mexico’s Secretary of Public Security during the presidency of Felipe Calderón between 2006 and 2012, and is the highest-ranking Mexican official to face US justice on charges of drug trafficking and corruption.
After three days of analysis, this Thursday, January 19, the jury convenes for the trial of García Luna. The former official faces up to 20 years in prison or the possibility of life in prison for the corruption and drug trafficking charges against him, and to which he has pleaded not guilty.
Garcia Luna, who served for a decade as the head of Mexico’s now-disbanded Federal Investigation Agency, the equivalent of the FBI, was arrested in Dallas on December 9, 2019 and charged with drug trafficking and the million-dollar Sinaloa Cartel. Was accused of taking a bribe, which was headed by. at that time by Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán.
Prosecutors argue that, in exchange for the money, García Luna allowed the Sinaloa Cartel to operate with impunity in Mexico and allowed traffickers to transport drugs safely and without interference from law enforcement in the United States. helped, and it even carried out attacks against rival cartels. ,
The former officer is facing multiple counts of participation in an ongoing criminal enterprise and conspiracy with others to obtain, import and distribute thousands of kilograms of cocaine into the US, in addition to allegedly providing false information to US immigration officials. Gave statements.
Garcia Luna has pleaded not guilty to all charges. If convicted, he faces a minimum sentence of 20 years in prison, up to life in prison.
The trial will take place in New York’s Eastern District Court and will be presided over by federal judge Brian Kogan, the same court and judge who oversaw the case against Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán. During Guzmán’s trial, García Luna’s name was mentioned when some testified that he had given a suitcase full of money to the former Mexican police chief.
Prosecutors estimate the trial could last about eight weeks, during which various evidence and dozens of witnesses will be presented, including former members of the Sinaloa cartel and other drug traffickers. It is not yet clear whether Garcia Luna will speak in his own defense, but he could still avoid a lengthy trial if he decides to cut a plea deal with prosecutors in exchange for a guilty plea.
Seven women and five men will be in charge of deciding on the innocence or guilt of the former Mexican police chief. By order of the judge, the jury will be anonymous and partially isolated.
These 12 US citizens were selected from among 400 candidates. Each had to answer basic questions about their identity, their ethnicity, their profession and any information that might affect the decision.
Judge Kogan ordered these conditions at the request of the prosecution. Kogan said the continued violence and widespread reach of the cartel, to which prosecutors have linked Garcia Luna, makes it reasonably likely that jurors would fear for their safety if they were not guaranteed anonymity.
Cesar de Castro, the prosecutor and García Luna’s lawyer, will present his opening arguments beginning on January 23 and then move on to witness testimony.
At the end of that process, the jury will enter deliberations and reach a unanimous verdict on each of the charges facing Garcia Luna.
During Chapo Guzmán’s trial, the jury was also anonymous and partially segregated.
Guzmán was convicted and sentenced to life in prison in 2019, and is serving his sentence in a maximum security federal prison in Colorado.
After selecting the 12 members of the panel, Judge Brian Cogan issued a ruling that restricted the presentation of some evidence at the sessions and disclosed the names of some potential witnesses in the case.
Among them is Jesús “El Rey” Zambada, a former operative of the Sinaloa Cartel, who testified during the trial against Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán that on two occasions he delivered suitcases with US$8 million in bribes to García Luna instead. Did it To protect her..
In addition, Edgar Vetia, aka “El Diablo”, former prosecutor of the Mexican state of Nayarit, who was sentenced to 20 years in prison in the United States for drug trafficking, and Colombian drug trafficker Alex Cifuentes Villa , who also gave statements at the trial. against el chapo
Sergio Villarreal Barragán, a former associate of US authorities and former member of the Beltrán Leyva cartel, known as “El Grande”, is also expected to testify.
The document also refers to an unnamed witness alleging cannibalism, but Judge Cogan prohibited the defense from mentioning that allegation because of its defamatory and distracting nature.
Among other things, which the jury will not hear, according to the judge’s decision, are questions about some of Cifuentes Villa’s alleged beliefs about aliens and the Illuminati. nor about evidence unrelated to the case which may call into question the credibility of certain witnesses.
The judge, however, granted the defense’s request to exclude evidence of the expensive García Luna lifestyle, arguing that there was no evidence that it was financed with Sinaloa Cartel money.
The defense can also show the jury photos of Garcia Luna with senior US government officials, as evidence of – according to the defense – his fight against Mexican drug cartels.
César de Castro, García Luna’s lawyer, has said that the government will present cartel witnesses who have made false accusations in retaliation.
As occurred during the trial against Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán, expect potentially explosive confessions that could implicate other Mexican officials.
In addition, it is hoped that it will shed more light on the inner workings of drug cartels, the violence they perpetrate and the level of corruption that often sustains them.