Jamaicans at home and abroad reacted with mixed emotions Friday when Judge Robert P. Patterson sentenced former Kingston strongman Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke to the maximum penalty for his alleged crimes.
The judge pronounced a sentence of 23 years.
“That’s all ‘im get? Trudy McMillan, a Caribbean national asked “He should have gotten the book thrown at him.”
But in fact, 23 years was the maximum prison sentence Coke could have received.
“The man has never been convicted of any crime in Jamaica, he should be sent home,” a former Tivoli Gardens resident countered.
A diverse opinion on the acclaimed gangster who pleaded guilty to racketeering, waived his right to an extradition hearing in 2010 and was extradited to the U.S. to face drug trafficking and gun running charges two years ago.
Coke’s criminal reputation may have attributed to the brief tenure of Prime Minister Bruce Golding who resigned following mounting criticisms after acceding to the U.S. requests by sending both the Jamaica Defence Force and the Jamaica Constabulary Force into Tivoli Gardens to arrest Coke in May 2010.
That military action may have provoked a standoff between the armed forces and gunmen which resulted with the death of at least 73 persons and one soldier.
For months Coke eluded capture and remained a fugitive.
In the end, he was discovered in a car dressed in women’s clothing – a wig – accompanied by a religious leader.
The Jamaican authorities released him to the custody of U.S. federal agents who transported him to New York City where he has been held awaiting sentence.
Golding was heavily criticized for his action and it seemed members of his own political party lost confidence in his leadership abilities.
It should be noted that Judge Patterson is no relation to former Jamaican Prime Minister P.J. Paterson.