Tears flow for smiling Ninja

By Sade Gardner
Observer writer

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

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TEARS rolled down dancer Keiva Hibbert's cheeks as Justice Martin Gayle handed a life sentence to Ninjaman in the Home Circuit Court, downtown Kingston, yesterday.

“He's like a dad to me. He is very supportive of me and my daughter, so I had to be here. The sentence is all right, I guess it could be worse,” she told the Jamaica Observer.

During the court proceedings, the dancehall deejay turned around to smile at Hibbert and other supporters as he sat in the prisoners' dock.

Ninjaman (given name Desmond Ballentine) was given a life sentence for the 2009 murder of Ricardo “Ricky Trooper” Johnson. The 51-year-old will be eligible for parole after 25 years. The dancehall deejay also received 20 years for shooting with intent. The sentences will run concurrently.

Ninjaman's son, Jahneil Ballentine, was also handed a life sentence and will have to serve 15 years before becoming eligible for parole. Co-accused Dennis Clayton received a similar sentence.

Hibbert said she was asked to be a character witness but declined as it would have been too emotional for her.

“I couldn't go on the stand 'cause I know I was gonna break down. But he's always in a good spirit, even if he is going through something bad, you won't know 'cause he always has that spirit of smiling and happiness, but I'm just the person who can't hold it,” she said.

Four character witnesses, including singjay Stacy “Stacious” Scarlett and former Dancehall Queen Carlene Smith, begged Justice Gayle for leniency in his sentencing.

Justice Gayle said he found the latter's statements interesting.

“Of the most interesting character evidence, the one given by Ms Carlene Smith was so important to me. She said that you (Ninjaman) always encouraged persons to be peaceful, and she mentioned the name Vybz Kartel, who is currently serving a life sentence. You are a public figure, persons expect you to set an example,” said the judge before handing down his sentencing.

Ninjaman's attorney, Queen's Counsel Valerie Neita-Robertson, said her client will be appealing the sentence.

A smiling Ninjaman and son were removed from the prisoner's dock in handcuffs by police officers.

Smith spoke to the Jamaica Observer outside the of court .

“He (Ninjaman) just passed me out here and said: 'It's not the end.' He's that kind of character, where everything is a happy-go-lucky moment, but I know deep down there is regret. As we know, he has been a reformed human being and continues to do real great work, so this is an extremely sad day for me as he is my friend. But the lawyer still gives us hope; we can appeal it, but let's just hope God has another bigger work for him in store, and this is one of the messages to the public and the world at large,” she said.




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