A US court has sentenced Jamaican kingpin Christopher “Dudus” Coke to 23 years in prison, the maximum possible sentence for the crime figure who still enjoys a measure of support in his Kingston neighborhood.
A New York district court sentenced Coke, leader of the Shower Posse gang, to two consecutive sentences, 20 years for racketeering and conspiracy, and three for conspiracy to commit assault.
Coke’s attorney says he will not appeal his sentence, Reuters reported.
According to a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) press release, US attorney Preet Bharara said, “From his home base in Jamaica, Christopher Coke presided over an international drug and weapons trafficking organization that he controlled through violence and intimidation for nearly two decades; enlisting an army of ‘soldiers’ to do his bidding.”
In addition to his sentence, Coke has been ordered to pay $1.5 million in forfeitures.
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Coke made a deal with authorities to avoid a life sentence, pleading guilty to the charges. He was given the maximum sentence after the court heard testimony from people who said they had been victims of violence by his group, and an account of him ordering a man to be killed with a chainsaw.
The kingpin remains an ambigous figure in Jamaica, where many residents of his Kingston neighborhood, Tivoli Gardens, still express sympathy for him. When his sentencing was delayed in March, supporters celebrated outside the New York courthouse. In Tivoli Gardens, a heavy-handed operation to catch him in May 2010 left at least 70 people dead, increasing sympathy for Coke and anger against the government. The Stabroek News reported Friday that a US diplomatic cable released under the Freedom of Information Act said that the forces had used mortars in the assault.
Coke has defended his record, sending a long letter to the judge detailing the things he has done for the community. When Judge Robert Patterson asked him about the positive contributions he had made to Jamaica, Coke responded, “I am a good person,” Reuters reported.
The sentencing brings to an end a long-running episode which caused tension between Jamaica and the US, and contributed to the fall of Jamaica’s prime minister.