June 8, 2012 -- The Jamaican drug lord whose extradition sparked a minor civil war on the island country that took more than 70 lives was sentenced today to 23 years in an American prison.
Christopher "Dudus" Coke, leader of an international criminal organization known as the "Shower Posse" or the "Presidential Click," had pleaded guilty in August to one count of racketeering conspiracy and one count of "conspiracy to commit assault with a dangerous weapon in aid of racketeering."
"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," New York U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement today. "With his conviction, he is no longer able to traffic drugs in the U.S., move guns across our border, or terrorize people, and with today's sentence; he will now spend a very long time in prison for his crimes."
Before his sentencing Coke had asked for leniency, citing the supposed "charitable deeds and social services" he provided to his home community.
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 in 2010, 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.
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.
Golding, who represents Tivoli Gardens in Parliament, was accused of having strong links to the drug dealer. He has vociferously denied any wrongdoing. Golding stepped down as Prime Minister after the battle to capture Dudus, and his party lost control of Parliament in an crushing electoral defeat widely attributed to his handling of the extradition.
Coke's 23 years was the maximum prison term and, in addition, Coke was ordered to four years of supervised release and to pay $1.5 million in forfeiture, according to the Department of Justice.