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Coke appears in NY Court

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NEW YORK – Jamaican gang leader Christopher “Dudus” Coke, appearing in United States court after the government had sought for months to extradite him from his home, pleaded not guilty to charges that he ran a massive drug ring in the eastern United States from his Caribbean stronghold.The 42-year-old boss of the notorious Shower Posse gang was sent to New York on Thursday under tight security after waiving extradition. His case had sparked street violence in Kingston that left 76 people dead.Coke, wearing a blue inmate smock and speaking softly, entered the plea during a brief appearance in Manhattan federal court. Asked by US District Judge Robert Patterson whether he understood the charges, the short and stocky defendant replied, “Yes, sir.”A defence attorney temporarily assigned at the arraignment told the judge that Coke planned to hire another lawyer. Attorney Frank Doddato said after the hearing that he expects to represent Coke and would vigorously fight the charges.A hearing was set for Monday to take up the matter of who would represent Coke.In court papers, New York prosecutors said Coke conspired to distribute cocaine and marijuana throughout the eastern United States since 1994.The indictment alleges that members of Coke’s gang in Jamaica and their US counterparts “sold narcotics, including marijuana and crack cocaine, at Coke’s direction.” It says cooperators have recorded phone conversations with Coke about shipments of drugs and handguns.Gang members would buy “firearms in the United States and ship those firearms to Jamaica,” the indictment says. There, Coke would distribute the guns and cash as a way “to support and increase his authority and power in Kingston, Jamaica and elsewhere”, it adds.Drug dealers in the US regularly sent “cash and goods, including clothing and electronics, to Coke as ’tribute’ payments, in recognition of his leadership and assistance,” the papers said. Coke was captured in Jamaica on Tuesday. The following day he agreed to waive extradition and said he was saddened by the deaths and hoped his departure would help his country heal.At his extradition hearing at a military outpost in Kingston, the Caribbean nation’s capital, Coke expressed confidence that he would be found innocent and allowed to return to his family in Jamaica. (AP)