NEW YORK: In a scene US authorities had dreamed of for decades, Mexican drug lord and escape artist Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman was hauled into an American courtroom and then taken away to an ultra-secure jail that has held some of the world's most dangerous terrorists and mobsters.
Holding his unshackled hands behind his back, a dazed-looking Guzman entered a not-guilty plea through his lawyers to drug trafficking and other charges at a Brooklyn courthouse ringed by squad cars, officers with assault rifles and bomb-sniffing dogs.
"He's a man known for a life of crime, violence, death and destruction, and now he'll have to answer for that," Robert Capers, the US attorney in Brooklyn, said at a news conference.
The court appearance came hours after Guzman's Thursday night extradition from Mexico, where he had become something of a folk hero for two brazen prison escapes.
Guzman was ordered held without bail and was expected to be kept in a special Manhattan jail unit where other high-risk inmates including Mafia boss John Gotti and several close associates of Osama bin Laden spent their time awaiting trial.
"It is difficult to imagine another person with a greater risk of fleeing prosecution," prosecutors wrote in court papers.
Prosecutors described Guzman as the murderous overseer of a three-decade campaign of smuggling, brutality and corruption that made his Sinaloa drug cartel a fortune while fueling an epidemic of cocaine abuse and related violence in the US in the 1980s and '90s.
Guzman, who's in his 50s, faces the possibility of life in prison if convicted. To get Mexico to hand him over,
prosecutors agreed not to seek the death penalty. They also are demanding he forfeit USD 14 billion in assets.
Outside court, Guzman defense attorney Michael Schneider said: "I haven't seen any evidence that indicates to me that Mr. Guzman's done anything wrong." He said he would look into whether his client was extradited properly.
The US had been trying to get custody of Guzman since he was first indicted in California in the early 1990s.
American authorities finally got their wish on the eve of Donald Trump's presidential inauguration, though it was unclear if the timing of the extradition was intended as a sign of respect to the Republican or some kind of slap, perhaps an effort to let outgoing Democratic President Barack Obama take the credit.
When Guzman got off a plane in New York, "as you looked into his eyes, you could see the surprise, you could see the shock, and to a certain extent, you could see the fear, as the realization kicked in that he's about to face American justice," said Angel Melendez, a US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent.