Jamaica's most notorious gang leader, who provoked a virtual state of war in Kingston two years ago when he resisted arrest in the barricaded neighbourhood he ran as his own personal fiefdom, has been sentenced to spend 23 years in a federal US prison.
Christopher "Dudus" Coke, 43, was sentenced by a federal judge in New York after he pleaded guilty last August to charges that included trafficking more than 3 tonnes of marijuana and 30lb (14kg) of cocaine to the US. The drug lord was also ordered to pay $1.5m in forfeiture of profits from his global trafficking operation that was centred on Kingston, Miami and New York.
"With his conviction, Coke is no longer able to traffick drugs in the
US, 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," said Preet Bharara, US attorney for Manhattan.
Coke's sentencing brings to a formal end his violent reign that last almost 20 years with the complicity of Jamaican political interests. Before he gave himself up in June 2010 he had been on the US department of justice's list of the world's most dangerous drug traffickers.
He ran the neighbourhood of Tivoli Gardens on the west side of Kingston as a sort of walled military encampment within which his rule was unchallenged. Through his gang, the Shower Posse – a reference to its members fondness for spraying people with bullets – aka the Presidential Click, he ran a state within a state.
He had his own small army of up to 200 soldiers, and a makeshift jail in which he dispensed summary justice. He even organised schooling and sustenance for poor local families, rendering him at one level enormously popular.
In a hand-written letter submitted to the Manhattan court asking for leniency in his sentencing , Coke wrote: "I did a lot of charitable deeds and social services to help members of my community. I also host a lot of charity events such as an Easter treat for the elderly persons in my community."
But he was also brutal. Last month evidence was presented to the court in which one of Coke's former henchmen described how the gang leader would go into the jail run by the Shower Posse and dispatch rivals by cutting them up with a chain saw.
He is widely believed to have remained immune from the law for so long because of protection from leading Jamaican politicians. When the US asked for his extradition, the Jamaican government initially refused, only relenting in May 2010.
That in turn triggered a state of emergency in Kingston after the Jamaican army was sent in to Tivoli Gardens. Controversy continues to swirl two years later over the battle in which 73 civilians died .
Going by the names of Dudus, Presi, Bossy and Shortman, Coke was born into a life of violent crime. He inherited control of the Shower Posse from his father, Lester, under whose leadership the gang was alleged to have carried out more than 1,000 murders.
The Cokes have reaped what they sewed, however. Two of Christopher Coke's brothers, a sister and his father all died violently, Lester Coke in a fire that mysteriously broke out in his prison cell as he was awaiting extradition.
At the end of his sentence, Coke will be deported to Jamaica, at which point he faces retribution of another nature.
article courtesy of Ed Pilkington of "the guardian"