US Government Seeks Maximum 23-Year Prison Term for Christopher Coke

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Above: Christopher Coke

By the Caribbean Journal staff

The United States is seeking the maximum 23-year prison term for Jamaican strongman Christopher “Dudus” Coke, who pleaded guilty to charges of racketeering conspiracy and assault charges in August.

The US’ efforts to extradite Coke to the United States, and the Jamaican government’s apparent resistance to do so, led to a high-profile controversy and an eventual deadly assault on Coke’s Tivoli Gardens compound that led to the deaths of 73 Jamaicans.

Prosecutors said a 276-month sentence was “necessary to protect the public from further crimes of the defendant,” according to the memorandum filed by the office of Preet Bharara, US Attorney for the Southern District of New York.

“The maximum term for Christopher Coke is justified because of the cruelty and pain with which Coke treated his victims,” said David Rowe, a Jamaican-American attorney in Florida and law professor at the University of Miami. “The judge certainly wished to send a message to narco-traffickers in the Caribbean, particularly those who have obtained political support and endorsement.”

Coke, the head of the criminal gang known as the Shower Posse and the “Presidential Click,” was headquartered in Tivoli, where he engaged in a “pattern of racketeering activity,” according to the US government’s charges.

Coke’s enterprise involved a code of conduct called the “system,” according to the’ memorandum.

Under this system, young men in Tivoli Gardens known as “soldiers” were issued firearms, sent to coke by Shower Posse members in the US.

“Because Coke’s soldiers were well-armed and regularly patrolled the streets, and because of Coke’s stature and power both within Tivoli Gardens and the greater Kingston area, the Tivoli Gardens community was virtually off-limits to the local police, except those corrupt officers who were loyal to Coke,” the government said in its sentencing memorandum.

According to what prosecutors called “multiple unsolicited letters” to the Court, residents of Tivoli Gardens spoke of relatives and acquaintances who had been abused or killed by Coke or those acting at his direction.

“I might be targeted for death by the Shower Posse if this letter is brought to public record but this letter is my contribution to Jamaica and Jamaicans for their future,” read one letter written by a Jamaican woman.

Those letters and others were part of the US governments’ argument for a maximum 23-year term, in response to a letter, handwritten by Coke, asking for leniency in September.

While some in Kingston supported Coke’s “charitable efforts” in Tivoli Gardens, the government said it was those efforts that made his criminal conduct “more disturbing.”

“Those efforts make clear that [Coke] was in a position to understand the needs of his community and the resources available to alleviate the problems of poverty and lack of opportunity in Tivoli Gardens.,” the memo read. “The fact that Coke used that same community as a hub of his own criminal activity and exploited its young and vulnerable members by encouraging or forcing them to participate in his criminal acts makes his conduct that much more depraved.”

The prosecutors’ memorandum detailed in depth the US-based activities of Coke and his organization.

“Coke ran and controlled an international criminal organization, and the local Kingston community of Tivoli Gardens, through a combination of violence, intimidation and financial power,” the memorandum read. “There can be no dispute that Coke’s crimes — his leadership of a criminal organization engaged in narcotics-trafficking, firearms-trafficking and assault — were particularly serious.”

The government also noted Coke’s “virtual immunity” from the reach of law enforcement in Kingston, due to his ability to obtain large quantities of firearms.

Prosecutors said “a substantial sentence — the statutory maximum — is necessary to reduce the risk that Coke resumes his leadership position in the organization and his criminal activities upon his release from prison and his return to Jamaica.”

Coke’s sentencing is set for Feb. 28.

 

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