Good character references couldn't save Ninjaman from life in prison
Veteran entertainer Desmond “Ninjaman” Ballentine (right) entersthe Home Circuit Court in downtown Kingston yesterday prior tosentencing. (Photos: Bryan Cummings)

ENTERTAINER Ninjaman was told by Judge Martin Gayle yesterday that his prominence and success do not put him above the law as he sentenced him to life in prison for the murder of Ricardo “Ricky Trooper” Johnson in 2009.

The entertainer, who was convicted last month for murder and shooting with intent, will have to serve 25 years before he's eligible for parole.

The deejay, whose given name is Desmond Ballentine, was also sentenced to 20 years for shooting with intent. Both sentences will run concurrently.

Meanwhile, his co-accused — son Jahneil and Dennis Clayton — who were also sentenced to life will have to serve 15 years before they are eligible for parole.

Justice Gayle, referencing a previous gun conviction, said one would have thought that the entertainer would have learnt then that the gun is a very serious weapon. “Now, in 2017, you are back before the court for using the gun,” Justice Gayle said prior to handing down the sentence.

Having taken into consideration Ninjaman's antecedents, including two previous convictions, Justice Gayle said as a public figure he is expected to set an example.

“One of the most interesting character evidence of all [was] the one given by Carlene Smith. What she said [which] was most important to me is that you are always encouraging persons to be peaceful. She mentioned Vybz Kartel, and you yourself mentioned [him] in an unsworn statement. That is why I remembered it so much, and in that incident you walked away peacefully,” Justice Gayle said, adding that everyone has a fault.

After the sentence was handed down, Ninjaman said, “Thumbs up, Judge.”

Earlier when the matter was called up, Ninjaman's attorney, Valerie Neita-Robertson, called fellow entertainer Stacy Scarlett-Bryan; Smith; promoter and businessman Delroy Demario McDowell; and US-based magazine editor and journalist Constanze Han to give character evidence.

Scarlett-Bryan testified that the 51-year-old entertainer, whom she met 12 years ago, became her best male friend.

Scarlett-Bryan, otherwise known as “Stacious”, pointed out that after they became friends she realised that there was a difference between the personalities of Ninjaman the entertainer and Desmond Ballentine the person.

She said the entertainer is a peaceful and generous man who has always stayed close to God. adding that Ninjaman “give so much to society”, she begged Justice Gayle to have mercy on him.

Smith told the court that that the Ninjaman she has known since 1987 is a respectable, jovial, loyal, and fun person.

Smith testified that the artiste has been “very Godly” since 2000.

When Queen's Counsel Neita-Robertson asked her if she knew of his charities, Smith told the court that he had been working with inner-city youths to prevent them from going down the path he took when he was younger.

Ninjaman was convicted for possession of cocaine on October 6,1996. At that time he was sentenced to six months (suspended for two years). On November 26, 1999 he was convicted of illegal possession of firearm and served a year in prison.

Smith, while noting that the entertainer has been reformed, said: “People's past haunt them, but I am pleading with you (judge) to give him a chance.”

McDowell testified that when he met Ninjaman in 1984 he was one of the most talented deejays in the country. Noting that they have maintained a relationship over the years, he said the father of just over 30 children was always talking about his young ones.

McDowell, who described Ninjaman as a genius and a philanthropist, said the entertainer utilised his own funds to create the Umbrella Movement that assists the less fortunate.

Han testified that she shared a business and personal relationship with the entertainer for more than three years.

She said the entertainer has been inspiring young men through education and vocational training to ensure that they “go down the right path”.

The magazine editor also testified that she has worked closely with the entertainer to take photos, organise events, and acquire items in aid of charity.

Prior to handing down Clayton's sentence Justice Gayle noted that his social inquiry report was good, but what struck him was the fact that Clayton and the deceased were bosom friends.

Justice Gayle said the inquiry disclosed that they were the foundation family of Marl Road and that the deceased's mother spoke well of Clayton.

In handing down the sentence the judge said there is no scientific measure to determine the sentence, but said he took into consideration that Clayton had no previous conviction and that he spent more than three years in remand.

In addition to that, the judge said he could only think of three principles to to use in sentencing rehabilitation, deterrence and protection of the public.

As it relates to Jahneil Ballentine, the judge said the deceased's mother used to teach him to read on her verandah and that they were close friends who would visit each other's homes.

Following the sentencing, Neita-Robertson said Ninjaman was convicted for his past, not his present.

“I was really, really very emboldend by my client's response when I went to see him after the verdict. He said to me Miss Neita, God know why him sending me down a Tower Street. Mi a continue mi work wid di man dem down deh weh a fire gun. Mi nah give up', and I was very comforted by that,” Neita-Robertson said.

Even though the character witnesses wanted a shorter sentence, the attorney said the judge gave a discount.

“We have to live with it, that's the process, that's the system, and we will go on to the next stage, which is why I'm here, that's my job,” Neita-Robertson said.

The attorney said the appeal is prepared and she will file it shortly.

Ninjaman's son and co-accused Jahneil Ballentinearrives at the Home Circuit Court in downtown,Kingston, yesterday. He was sentenced to life inprison and will have to serve 15 years before he iseligible for parole.
Dennis Clayton, 37, Ninjaman's co-accused in themurder of Ricardo Johnson in 2009, arrives at theHome Circuit Court in downtown Kingston hoursbefore his sentencing, yesterday.
BY RACQUEL PORTER Observer staff reporter

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