'Dudus' pleads guilty
NEW YORK, United States, Thursday September 1, 2011 – Jamaican drug lord Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke, who was on a list that identified the world's most dangerous narcotics traffickers, has pleaded guilty in a deal with US prosecutors to avoid spending the rest of his life in prison.
Coke, 42, pleaded guilty yesterday in Manhattan Federal Court to one count of racketeering conspiracy and one count of conspiracy to commit assault with a dangerous weapon in aid of racketeering. He will be sentenced on December 8.
Under the plea deal, the prosecution will not proceed with the other gun and drug running charges.
The US went through a prolonged extradition process to get Coke to face trial on the charges. After initial resistance from the Jamaica government, an extradition order was issued and Coke went into hiding, as gunmen loyal to him faced off with police and soldiers who went to his inner-city Tivoli Gardens, West Kingston community in search of him. He was captured on June 22 last year, a month later.
Coke’s attorney, Stephen Rosen, told the Jamaica Observer that a combination of the court’s refusal to throw out wiretap evidence against his client and 12 convicts from Tivoli Gardens set to testify about him committing several murders in furtherance of his alleged drug and gun running operations prompted Coke to enter the plea.
“The only way I could guarantee Christopher Coke going home to Jamaica is to accept [this] plea... [Coke] knew what he was facing up here. He knows that it is a difficult place,” Rosen told the newspaper.
He could have been imprisoned for life if he had been convicted of the charges after a trial.
But as a result of the plea agreement, the most Coke could be jailed for is 23 years. He faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison on the racketeering conspiracy charge, along with a maximum term of five years' supervised release, and a maximum fine of US$250,000 or twice the pecuniary gain from the offence. On the conspiracy to commit assault in aid of racketeering charge, he faces a maximum sentence of three years in prison, a maximum term of one year of supervised release, and a maximum fine of US$250,000, or twice what he gained from the offence.
US Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara, who referred to Coke as the leader of the Jamaica-based international criminal organisation, ‘Shower Posse’ – also known as the ‘Presidential Click’ - said the plea was “a welcome conclusion to this ugly chapter of criminal history.”
“For nearly two decades, Christopher Coke led a ruthless criminal enterprise that used fear, force and intimidation to support its drug and arms trafficking ‘businesses’. He moved drugs and guns between Jamaica and the United States with impunity,” he said in a statement.
According to the Superseding Information filed yesterday in court, since the early 1990s, Coke led the Presidential Click, with members in Jamaica, the US, and other countries, and controlled the Tivoli Gardens area. It said Tivoli Gardens was guarded by a group of gunmen who acted at Coke's direction and were armed with illegally trafficked firearms from the US that Coke imported into Jamaica.
Prosecutors say that since 1994, members of the Presidential Click have been involved in drug trafficking in locations throughout the world, including New York City, Miami, and Kingston, Jamaica. Members distributed narcotics, including marijuana, cocaine and crack cocaine, at Coke's direction and on his behalf, and sent the proceeds back to him in Jamaica. They also supplied Coke with firearms that they obtained in the US.
“The Presidential Click members relied on Coke to provide them with protection and to assist them in their drug businesses, including with respect to the resolution of narcotics-related disputes,” the information indicated.
For example, it pointed out, in May 2007, Coke and others agreed to assault a narcotics trafficker in the Bronx, New York, when the trafficker failed to pay a drug debt owed to another member of the Presidential Click.
Coke has been named by the US Department of Justice to the list of Consolidated Priority Organization Targets (CPOTs). The CPOT list includes the world's most dangerous narcotics traffickers.