KINGSTON, Jamaica, Tuesday December 19, 2017 – A smile on the face of Jamaican dancehall artiste Ninjaman belied the seriousness of the life sentences he, his son and another man were yesterday given for a murder they committed eight years ago.
A month after being found guilty of the March 17, 2009 murder of Ricardo ‘Ricky Trooper’ Johnson, the 51-year-old deejay, whose given name is Desmond Ballentine; his son, Jahneil Ballentine; and another co-accused, Dennis Clayton, each received a sentence of life imprisonment for the crime.
However, while the dancehall artiste will have to spend 25 years behind bars before he becomes eligible for parole, the other two will have to serve 15 years before becoming eligible for parole.
In addition to the life sentence for the killing, the veteran entertainer was also slapped with a 20-year prison term for shooting with intent. The sentences will run concurrently.
The sentences handed down by Justice Martin Gayle in the Home Circuit Court in in Kingston followed testimony from character witnesses from the entertainment fraternity who spoke about how Ninjaman had changed his life, becoming a positive role model and a peace activist since his conviction for cocaine possession in 1996 and firearm possession in 1999.
They, along with defence attorney Valerie Neita-Robertson Q.C, pleaded for leniency on the artiste’s behalf.
However, before sentencing Ninjaman, the judge said: “You were given a chance in 1999 and one would have thought that you learnt your lesson.
“You are a public figure and you are expected to set an example. Prominence and economic success does not place anyone above the law.”
Ninjaman appeared unbothered by the reality of the lengthy prison stay ahead of him, reportedly telling the judge “thumbs up” after his sentence was handed down, and then smiling as he was led out of the court.
Neita-Robertson has already announced her plan to appeal the sentences.
According to evidence led during the trio’s five-week trial, a day after they involved in an altercation with Johnson, they returned with guns and other weapons and shot at him and another man.
While the other man – who testified at the trial and whom the prosecution referred to only as ‘Witness A’ – escaped unhurt, Johnson was fatally shot.