U.S. judge gives Dudus 23 years in prison
NEW YORK, (Reuters) – A U.S. judge sentenced Jamaican drug lord Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke yesterday to 23 years in prison, ending a long struggle by U.S. authorities to lock up a powerful figure who had evaded extradition with the aid of Jamaican authorities.
Coke, 43, was given the maximum sentence after a deal in which he pleaded guilty in August 2011 to drug trafficking and assault charges.
Since the early 1990s, Coke led the “Shower Posse,” an international criminal organization that distributed marijuana, cocaine and crack cocaine throughout the world, including New York, Miami and Kingston, Jamaica, the U.S. Justice Department said.
Jamaica’s prime minister fought American attempts to extradite Coke in 2009 for more than a year before agreeing under immense political pressure to hand him over. Still, it took a large-scale police assault on Tivoli Gardens, a Kingston neighbourhood he controlled, to take him into custody in June 2010. The fighting left 73 dead.
Coke, wearing a gray prison jumpsuit, sat stoically through most of yesterday’s proceedings in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, but spoke briefly before Judge Robert Patterson.
“I am a good person,” Coke said in asking the judge for consideration of what he said were the positive things he had done for his community in his native Jamaica.
Patterson chose, however, to give Coke the maximum allowable sentence – 20 years on the trafficking charge and three on the assault – and have them run consecutively.
Coke was also ordered to pay US$1.5 million in forfeiture.
“This sentencing shows the tenacity that law enforcement has upheld in order to identify, arrest and prosecute Christopher Coke and those like him who have been ‘untouchable’ criminals,’“ said Wilbert Plummer, a special agent with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
Coke’s attorney, Stephen Rosen, said he was disappointed that Patterson did not allow the sentences to run concurrently, but said they would not appeal. Rosen estimated that Coke would be eligible for release around the time he was 60, and would be allowed then to return to Jamaica.
Jamaican National Security Minister Peter Bunting said in a statement that Coke’s sentence proved to criminal kingpins that “no one is above the law,” adding Coke would likely have received a life sentence without a plea bargain.