'Cross-Dressing' Jamaican Drug Lord Begs U.S. Judge for Mercy

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A "cross-dressing" Jamaican drug lord extradited to New York after a month-long gun battle with police that killed at least 70 people has asked for leniency in a letter that begins, "Good day to you, Sir," and cites his support of community jamborees and holiday treats for the elderly.

Christopher "Dudus" Coke, leader of the Jamaica-based international criminal organization called the "Shower Posse," pleaded guilty in a Manhattan courtroom on August 31, 2011 to one count of racketeering conspiracy and one count of conspiracy to commit assault with a dangerous weapon in aid of racketeering. When Coke was arrested in Jamaica in June 2010, Jamaican police claimed he and his gunmen had used women's disguises to evade capture.

Coke, 42, is scheduled to be sentenced Dec. 8, when he could face 20 years in prison. In his letter to Judge Robert Patterson, he "humbly ask[s]" for the judge's discretion because of the many "charitable deeds and social services" he has provided to his community.

"[I] host a lot of charity events annually such as: A. An Easter treat for the elderly persons in my community. B. A back to school treat for the children after the summer holiday has ended, by giving the children school bags, books, pen, pencils, uniforms and other items that are necessary for school. … C. A community jamboree in the month of December." He also claims to have established a youth club and a computer school, to have found jobs for the unemployed, and to have helped enforce a curfew for teens and children in Tivoli Gardens.

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"Dudus" Coke was a popular figure among many in the West Kingston slums because of the money he spread around, allegedly the profits from his international drug operation. When the Jamaican government announced that it would cooperate with the U.S. and attempt to capture him, the communities allied to Coke began non-violent protests, then fortified their neighborhood with sandbags, threw up road blocks, installed improvised explosive devices and electrified fencing, all in an effort to block Coke's arrest.

According to the New York Times, however, Judge Patterson also received a letter from a West Kingston resident asking that Dudus be sentenced to life in prison because of his alleged personal responsibility for the deaths of hundreds of Jamaicans. "Mr. Coke is the Hitler of the Caribbean," wrote Maxine Riley, who charged that Coke's gunmen had killed her son Dexter when he was 16. Prosecutors have alleged that Coke ordered murders and shootings, and punished one man for stealing drugs by killing him with a chainsaw.

Coke Arrested in Wig

Coke, who was alleged to have sold crack cocaine and marijuana in the New York area since the 1990s, was indicted by the U.S. on drug and firearms charges in 2009 and became the target of a massive Jamaican police operation in May 2010. A bloody war between local security forces and Coke's gun-toting supporters in the west Kingston neighborhood of Tivoli Gardens lasted a full month and killed scores of Jamaicans, including security officers.

A popular local preacher managed to arrange Coke's peaceful surrender to authorities on June 22, 2010. At the time of his surrender, Coke said that he chose to accept extradition rather than watch the bloodshed in Jamaica continue.

When police arrested Dudus on the Mandela Highway west of Kingston, he was wearing a wig and had a pink wig and women's glasses in his car. Jamaican police claim that Dudus and his gunmen used women's clothes as disguises during the month-long street battle, and that some of the suspected gangsters found dead in Tivoli Gardens after the violence ended were wearing dresses.

Coke waived his right to judicial proceedings in Jamaica, according to a statement from the Justice Department, and was transferred to the custody of the U.S. Marshals service and the DEA. Coke was flown to New York on June 24, 2010.

His extradition had created tension between the Jamaican government and the U.S. Initially, Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding had fought the extradition, but relented after facing criticism at home and abroad.

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Golding, who represents Tivoli Gardens in Parliament, was accused of having strong links to the drug dealer. He has vociferously denied any wrongdoing.

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