By David P Rowe
Christopher Coke is a violent, politically affiliated Jamaican drug lord who was arrested while disguised as a woman in the company of a friendly pastor. Yesterday, Mr Coke struck a plea bargain with the United States Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York, on the eve of a major trial that would have exposed him to life in prison without parole.
This relatively sudden legal development occurred after Judge Robert Patterson denied a Motion to Suppress Evidence, which Coke had filed to prevent tapes of telephone conversations between himself and co-conspirators from being admitted into evidence in his upcoming racketeering trial.
Prosecutors intended to prove that Coke was the head of a massive drug ring known as the Shower Posse or the “Presidential Click.”
Evidence in this case indicates that Coke tied one of his narco-victims down and sawed him in half with a chainsaw while he was still alive. Coke was also implicated in at least five murders in Jamaica while administering discipline in his Jamaican Shower Posse empire.
In his plea agreement with the United States government, Coke admits to trying to ship 3,000 kilograms of marijuana and 15 kilograms of cocaine to the United States between 1999 and June of 2010.
He also admitted to ordering the assault of a Bronx drug dealer in 2007 who owed money to one of his Shower Posse connections. Coke ordered that the Bronx drug dealer be stabbed in the face, according to court documents.
The United States Attorney’s Office planned to prove at trial that Coke could obtain firearms from the United States and distribute them in Kingston’s Tivoli Gardens community. Prosecutors referred to a system which outlined the method of the operation of the Presidential Click.
According to prosecutors, the Click consisted of soldiers who would guard stash houses within or without Tivoli Gardens, defend the neighbourhood against rival communities, and motivate members of surrounding communities to support particular political candidates by intimidation. Shower Posse soldiers were paid a regular salary by Christopher Coke and his lieutenants.
The prosecutor outlined Christopher Coke’s violent conduct and explained the factual basis for the reputation for violence that the Shower Posse exhibited. The government also intended to establish that Coke used numerous female couriers to transport cocaine from Kingston to locations including New York and Miami.
The couriers would travel by plane after swallowing the cocaine, or more often, inserting it into their bodies. All of the government’s witnesses were prepared to establish that Coke’s conspiracy was achieved through violence, extortion and drug trafficking.
What are the potential political consequences in Jamaica for Christopher Coke’s plea? In the eyes of many, the Jamaica Labour Party and Tivoli Gardens have always been identified together, and this result is therefore a black eye for the party.
In the wake of the Coke development, it is possible that the JLP could be scrutinized for some of its relationships.
Hopefully the wording and the content of the United States’s Motion in Limine in the Coke case will be debated in the Jamaican Parliament towards the goal of ensuring that the administration of government is always kept separate from less wholesome elements in society.
David P Rowe is an attorney in Florida and Jamaica and a professor of law at the University of Miami School of Law.
Note: the opinions expressed in Caribbean Journal op-eds are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Caribbean Journal.