(As originally published with additional photos, Mon, September 18th 2023, 9:19 PM EDT)
CHICAGO (TND) — A son of former Sinaloa cartel leader Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán pleaded not guilty to five criminal charges Monday, days after being extradited from Mexico.
Monday’s arraignment was the first court appearance for Ovidio Guzmán López, 33, whose nicknames El Raton and Raton Nuevo translate to “the Mouse.”
He was described in federal court in Chicago as hunched forward, answering questions from the judge through a translator softly and politely, very different from his alleged cartel’s reputation.
He wore an orange jumpsuit and matching orange slippers, with his legs shacked at the ankles. The session took 15 minutes and there was extra security in the courtroom.
Guzmán López faces drug, money laundering, and firearms charges. Federal prosecutors say he conspired to distribute cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, and marijuana from Mexico to the U.S. from around 2008 to at least 2021.
Mexican security forces arrested Guzmán López in January, and that set off violence that killed 30 people, including 10 military personnel.
The army had to use Black Hawk helicopter gunships because the cartel had truck-mounted .50-caliber machine guns.
In fact, gunmen from the cartel hit two military aircraft. That forced authorities to land. Then, gunmen went to the airport in Culiacan, and military and civilian aircraft were hit by gunfire.
Guzmán López was extradited on Friday.
Last spring, U.S. prosecutors unsealed sprawling indictments against him and his three brothers — Ivan Archivaldo Guzman Salazar, Jesus Alfredo Guzman Salazar, and Joaquin Guzman Lopez — known as the “Chapitos.”
They’re accused of leading the cartel and getting it into synthetic drugs like methamphetamine and the powerful opioid fentanyl, but they denied the allegations in a letter.
”We have never produced, manufactured or commercialized fentanyl nor any of its derivatives,” the brothers wrote. “We are victims of persecution and have been made into scapegoats.”
Their father, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán, was convicted in New York as leader of the Sinaloa Cartel. He was arrested in 2016, extradited in 2017, and is serving a life sentence.
The feds say Guzman Lopez was also indicted in New York “on charges of continuing criminal enterprise, fentanyl importation conspiracy, fentanyl distribution conspiracy, possession of machineguns and destructive devices, conspiracy to possess machineguns and destructive devices, and conspiracy to commit money laundering.”
The capture of Guzman Lopez was not the Mexican government’s first try. It stopped an attempt due to violence three years before they were successful.
Some of the five charges against Guzmán López carry maximum life sentences. Also, there’s a mandatory life sentence if he’s convicted of engaging in an illegal enterprise as a leader.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.