A son of Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman pleaded not guilty to sweeping narcotics trafficking charges Monday during a brief hearing under tight security in Chicago’s federal courthouse.
Dressed in an orange jail jumpsuit and shackled at the ankles, Ovidio Guzman Lopez, 33, listened to the proceedings through a Spanish interpreter, though he occasionally answered U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman’s questions in heavily accented English.
Prosecutors said two of the six counts Guzman Lopez is charged with carry a mandatory life sentence if convicted. The death penalty was taken off the table as part of a negotiation for Guzman Lopez’s extradition with Mexican authorities, according to prosecutors.
Guzman Lopez waived his right to a detention hearing and will be held without bond pending trial. His next court date was set for November.
Guzman Lopez was reputed to have taken over the powerful Sinaloa cartel after his father’s arrest seven years ago, was one of four El Chapo sons, nicknamed the “Chapitos,” charged in an indictment unsealed in Chicago earlier this year.
Of the sons, Guzman Lopez, who is known as “El Raton,” or “The Mouse,” was the only one in custody. He was captured in Culiacan, Mexico, in January after a bloody gun battle that left 10 soldiers and 19 suspects dead, according to news reports.
Guzman Lopez, who was being held in Mexico pending extradition proceedings, was flown to Chicago on Friday evening.
Security was tight at the Dirksen U.S. Courthouse for his first court appearance, with cell phones and other electronics banned in the courtroom and at least eight deputy U.S. marshals standing around the defendant and near the door.
Guzman Lopez is the highest-profile Sinaloa figure to appear in a Chicago courtroom since Vicente Zambada Niebla, the eldest son of cartel boss Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada, was extradited here more than a decade ago and secretly began cooperating with the government.
El Mayo is also charged in the same indictment and remains a fugitive.
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