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Jamaican drug lord receives 23 years in U.S. court

06/08/2012 03:07 EDT | Updated 08/08/2012 05:12 EDT

A Jamaican drug lord whose global gang has ties to Toronto has been sentenced in a New York courtroom to 23 years for drug and gun trafficking charges.

Christopher (Dudus) Coke was sentenced Friday in Federal Court.

Coke, head of the Shower Posse gang, was captured in Kingston, Jamaica, in 2010 following a bloody siege of his ghetto stronghold Tivoli Gardens that left more than 70 dead. He was extradited to the U.S. a month later.

Coke pleaded guilty to racketeering, conspiracy and drug-trafficking charges last year.

He was a divisive figure — folk hero to some followers in the West Kingston slum of Tivoli Gardens and feared vengeful overlord to others.

Coke wrote a seven-page letter to U.S. District Judge Robert B. Patterson prior to sentencing, seeking leniency by describing the good deeds he did for members of the Tivoli Gardens community, including helping the poor.

But several women allegedly abused by Coke's gang in Jamaica begged for a harsh punishment. Some were reportedly used as mules to transport drugs to the U.S.

"Sir, I'm not going to stand in this court and tell you I'm a saint," Coke said Friday. But, he quickly added, "I'm a good person. I've done a lot of good things to help people in my community."

The government co-operators "are talking about things I'd never dream of doing in my life," he said, referring to witnesses who spoke out against him, including an admitted member of Coke's drug gang.

But Patterson told Coke that the allegations of violence "offset" any good deeds and imposed the 23-year prison term sought by prosecutors. The defendant had no visible reaction when the sentence was announced.

Coke took over the notorious Shower Posse from his father, who died in 1992. The gang moved into Toronto in the 1990s.

Prosecutors say Coke terrorized anyone who interfered with his drug operation.

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