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Drug kingpin Coke pleads guilty to racketeering, assault

By Nina Golgowski, CNN
Christopher Coke, 42, ran a Jamaica-based criminal organization, prosecuters say.
Christopher Coke, 42, ran a Jamaica-based criminal organization, prosecuters say.
  • Christopher Coke pleas guilty to two charges in racketeering and assault
  • He faces a maximum of 23 years in prison; sentencing is set for December 8
  • 76 people died in a gun battle during a failed attempt to arrest Coke in May 2010

New York (CNN) -- Christopher Coke, an international drug kingpin whose arrest and extradition to the United States was preceded by a horrific gun battle in Jamaica that left dozens of civilians dead, pleaded guilty on Wednesday to racketeering and assault charges.

Coke, who had pleaded not guilty to the charges after his extradition last year, faces a maximum sentence of 23 years in prison with a maximum fine of $500,000 for two charges of racketeering conspiracy and conspiracy to commit assault in aid of racketeering, according to the release.

Coke, 42, ran a Jamaica-based criminal organization called the Presidential Click, or Shower Posse, which had trafficked illegal weapons and drugs into New York and Miami, and to other Jamaica-area leaders, since the early 1990s, according to a release by prosecuting District Attorney Preet Bharara for the Southern District of New York.

"For nearly two decades, Christopher Coke led a ruthless criminal enterprise that used fear, force and intimidation to support its drug and arms trafficking 'businesses,'" U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara of Manhattan said at Wednesday's hearing, according to the release.

"Today's plea is a welcome conclusion to this ugly chapter of criminal history," Bharara added.

Lead defense attorney Frank Doddato described Coke as "stoical" during his court appearance. Doddato said his client has continually expressed remorse.

Coke's group of Presidential Click members trafficked in narcotics, including marijuana, cocaine and crack cocaine, under Coke's direction, according to the formal charges Bharara presented at court. Coke also was charged with overseeing the purchase and distribution of firearms among Presidential Click members.

Proceeds from drug sales were sent to Coke in Jamaica, in the form of cash and/or goods, according to the charges. These included "'tribute' payments, in recognition of his leaderships and his assistance," which could come in the form of clothing and electronics.

In May 2010, a failed attempt to arrest Coke in Kingston, Jamaica's capital, sparked gun battles between security forces and his supporters that ended with 76 people dead, 73 of them civilians.

Jamaican police apprehended Coke, who was wearing a woman's wig, at a checkpoint. He was extradited to the United States in June 2010, and pleaded not guilty

Following his extradition, Coke, who also had among his aliases "Duddus," "Shortman," "Presi" and "General," responded said he was "deeply upset and saddened by the unnecessary loss of lives" in the Kingston shootout, and said the bloodshed "could have been avoided."

"Everyone, the whole country, has been adversely affected by the process that has surrounded my extradition and I hope that my action today will go some way towards healing all who have suffered and will be of benefit to the community of Tivoli Gardens" -- a neighborhood where the violence erupted.

During Wednesday's guilty plea, Doddato said the Kingston shootout was one of the reasons Coke surrendered.\

Coke's sentencing is scheduled for December 8, according to the district attorney's release.