Lawyer for 'Dudus' reveals details of plea deal

Thursday, September 01, 2011

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NEW YORK, (CMC) – A lawyer for Jamaican drug kingpin Christopher 'Dudus' Coke said that his client pleaded guilty to drugs and gun-running charges after striking a deal with prosecutors.

Stephen H Rosen told reporters here that the plea deal came together in recent days after prosecutors told Coke’s lawyers that various confidential informers were prepared to testify that Coke had been involved in five murders.

Rosen said one witness was prepared to testify that Coke “used a chain saw to kill someone who had stolen drugs from him.”

Coke’s arrest last summer came after a month-long manhunt that left scores dead in Kingston, the Jamaican capital.

He pleaded guilty yesterday to racketeering conspiracy charges in a US Federal District Court in Manhattan.

The guilty plea emerged during an hour of quiet dialogue between Coke and a federal judge, Rosen said.

Coke, 42, pleaded guilty to trafficking large quantities of ganja and cocaine, as well as approving the stabbing of a ganja dealer in New York. He faces a maximum sentence of 23 years in prison.

Under the original indictment, Coke could have faced a life sentence if convicted.

The plea deal does not require him to cooperate or to testify on behalf of the government in any proceeding.  

“I’m pleading guilty because I am,” he told Judge Robert P Patterson Jr.

In seeking Coke’s extradition, Preet Bharara, the United States attorney in Manhattan, charged that, for more than a decade, Coke had controlled an international drug ring from his stronghold of Tivoli Gardens in Kingston.

His organisation often transported cocaine to Miami and New York, prosecutors said.

A portion of the profits, they said, went to buy guns in the United States, which were shipped back to Coke, who reportedly wielded considerable political influence in Jamaica.

His organisation was so well armed that it “rendered the Tivoli Gardens area virtually off-limits to the local police,” prosecutors wrote in a court filing.

Coke’s lawyers described him as a well-spoken man who had never cursed in their presence.

They said he had approached his new life in federal custody, where he is held under unusually restrictive conditions, with stoicism.

“He’s never been in bad spirits,” said another of his lawyers, Frank A Doddato. “Let’s just say he’s one of the last tough guys.”

In giving a statement of his guilt, Coke remained vague as to the specific crimes he had committed.

He said that “a person gave someone narcotics on my behalf, on my instructions,” without offering any further details other than the year, 2007.

Initially, Judge Patterson voiced skepticism that the vaguely described crimes to which Coke was pleading guilty met the standard for racketeering.

When Coke pleaded guilty to approving the stabbing of a marijuana dealer in the Bronx in 2007, Judge Patterson asked whether the person had sustained serious injury - a component of the charge. Coke said he believed the person was stabbed in the face.

“Was it something that required hospitalisation or was it something he could go home and brag about?” the judge asked.

Coke said that he was in Jamaica at the time and did not know the details, but that he was sure it would have required medical attention.  He did not offer the name of the person who was stabbed.

Asked for details about the violence, Ellen Davis, a spokeswoman for Bharara, refused to name the victim or the attacker.

Coke acknowledged involvement in the distribution of more than three tons of marijuana and more than 30 pounds of cocaine.

In addition to the confidential informers, prosecutors built the case using wiretaps the Jamaican authorities had been collecting since 2004, when they started eavesdropping on Coke’s cell phone conversations and on those of other members of his drug trafficking enterprise, according to court documents.

Rosen said that some 50,000 conversations had been intercepted in the investigation. Of those, he said, “there was only one in which there was discussion of violence, and I can tell you it wasn’t murder.”

The manhunt for Christopher Coke last year led to more than 70 deaths.

In the months before the Jamaican prime minister, Bruce Golding, acted on the extradition request, Jamaican leaders warned officials in the American Embassy that any move to arrest Coke could result in widespread violence or civil unrest.

This was because Coke was well fortified in Tivoli Gardens and had a measure of popular support, according to a review of secret State Department cables released by WikiLeaks.

Related stories:

PNP: 'JLP must say sorry over Dudus'
'Dudus' pleads guilty – Lawyer says wiretap evidence, planned testimony of 12 Tivoli convicts resulted in former don’s decision

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