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Jamaican drug lord handed maximum sentence

Jamaican drug lord Christopher "Dudus" Coke has been sentenced to 23 years behind bars in a US drug trafficking case that brought into sharp focus his reputation for using ruthless acts of violence to strike fear into both foes and followers.

A US judge gave Coke, 43, the maximum sentence on Friday after a deal in which he pleaded guilty in August 2011 to drug trafficking and assault charges.

The verdict ended a long struggle by US authorities to lock up a powerful figure who had evaded extradition with the aid of Jamaican authorities.

Since the early 1990s, Coke led the "Shower Posse," an international criminal organisation that distributed marijuana, cocaine and crack cocaine throughout the world, including New York, Miami and Kingston, Jamaica, the US justice department said.

Coke was arrested in Jamaica and extradited in 2010 following a bloody siege in Tivoli Gardens, which had become what US authorities describe as "a garrison community" he used to oversee an international drug trafficking ring.

The stronghold had been patrolled by Coke's young followers armed with illegal weapons bought on the black market in the US and smuggled into Jamaica, prosecutors said.

‘No one above the law’

Coke, wearing a gray prison jumpsuit, sat stoically through most of Friday's proceedings in US district court in Manhattan, but spoke briefly before Judge Robert Patterson.

"I am a good person," Coke said in asking the judge for consideration of what he said were the positive things he had done for his community in his native Jamaica.

Patterson chose, however, to give Coke the maximum allowable sentence - 20 years on the trafficking charge and three on the assault - and have them run consecutively.

Coke was also ordered to pay $1.5 million in forfeiture.

"This sentencing shows the tenacity that law enforcement has upheld in order to identify, arrest and prosecute Christopher Coke and those like him who have been 'untouchable' criminals,'" said Wilbert Plummer, a special agent with the US Drug Enforcement Administration.

Coke's attorney, Stephen Rosen, said he was disappointed that Patterson did not allow the sentences to run concurrently, but said they would not appeal.

Rosen estimated that Coke would be eligible for release around the time he was 60, and would be allowed then to return to Jamaica.

Peter Bunting, the Jamaican national security minister, said in a statement that Coke's sentence proved to criminal kingpins that "no one is above the law," adding Coke would likely have received a life sentence without a plea bargain.

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