Sentencing for Jamaican drug lord Christopher 'Dudus' Coke is delayed, after a judge rules that prosecutors must prove that his life of violence extended far beyond his admitted crimes.
NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK, UNITED STATES (MARCH 16, 2012) (REUTERS) - A judge on Friday (March 16) delayed the sentencing of Jamaican drug lord Christopher "Dudus" Coke for months by requiring federal prosecutors to prove the gang leader's life of violence extended far beyond his admitted crimes.
Coke had been set to be sentenced in federal court, but the judge overseeing the case instead ordered hearings to determine whether the U.S. government had evidence for the additional crimes.
A move Coke's defense said will eventually benefit their client.
"He's a very religious guy and his prayers, as far as he's concerned, have been answered by the court giving an opportunity to confront the people that have accused him of these atrocities," said his attorney Stephen Rosen.
"The government has to produce witnesses who they have alleged, eyewitnesses, who saw him cut off the limbs of an individual and let him die on the streets of Tivoli Gardens. If that's true and they've alleged it to be true, they claim they have an informant who says it's true, well bring him forward."
Coke pleaded guilty in August 2011 to drug trafficking and assault charges, and agreed with prosecutors not to seek a prison term of less than 21 years and 8 months.
Now his lawyers are contesting the government's descriptions of Coke's violent personality and lifetime of crime.
Family members who attended the hearing celebrated the outcome.
"We've not stopped praying for him. We love him. All of the Jamaican people are afraid he'll get sentenced. We're leaving it in God's hands," said Coke's aunt, Angela. "Freedom is a must."
His cousin Tanisha Smith said the family will return for the sentencing, which is scheduled for May 22.
"I think the case looked good today and it really came out well and I have no doubt that it's going to prosper in the end. And you know, as I said, as God is in the midst, everything's going to be okay," Smith told Reuters.
Coke was arrested in Jamaica in June 2010 and later extradited to the United States.
He was so powerful the Jamaican government declared a state of emergency to capture him and more than 500 police officers waged an armed assault on the barricaded Kingston neighborhood of Tivoli Gardens that Coke controlled.
Seventy-three people were killed in the fighting before Coke was seized.