June 25, 2010 / 7:45 PM / 9 years ago

Accused Jamaican drug lord Coke pleads not guilty

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Accused drug kingpin Christopher “Dudus” Coke pleaded not guilty to narcotics and gun trafficking charges at his first New York court appearance on Friday, having waived his right to a trial in Jamaica.

Alleged drug kingpin Christopher “Dudus” Coke wears a wig in this handout photograph released to Reuters June 23, 2010. REUTERS/Handout

Police arrested Coke, 42, on the outskirts of Kingston on Tuesday, ending a five-week manhunt for the notorious fugitive that began with deadly raids in the Jamaican capital.

Coke, who was remanded in custody by U.S. District Judge Robert Patterson, wore a blue prison smock and appeared calm. A lawyer who said he will represent Coke said he expects him to seek bail. U.S. prosecutors want to keep him in jail.

Lawyer Frank Doddato told reporters Coke’s defense team would fight the charges and not even concede “the time of day” to the prosecution.

Coke faces life in prison if convicted.

He waived his right to an extradition trial during a brief court appearance in Kingston on Thursday and was flown to New York.

Coke told the Jamaican court he was leaving with a heavy heart but convinced he would be vindicated and eventually allowed to return to his Caribbean homeland as a free man.

U.S. prosecutors have described him as the leader of the “Shower Posse” that murdered hundreds of people during the cocaine wars of the 1980s.

Seventy-six people were killed in four days of gun battles last month when police and soldiers stormed the Tivoli Gardens slum in west Kingston in an attempt to take Coke into custody.

Coke was a strong supporter of the ruling Jamaica Labour Party and wielded powerful influence in the west Kingston slums. Jamaica initially refused to extradite him and the case had strained relations between the United States and Jamaica.

Reporting by Basil Katz; Editing by Daniel Trotta and Xavier Briand

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