September 25, 2020

Coke wiretaps to be released

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Christopher "Dudus" Coke

Jamaica’s supreme court yesterday ordered authorities to give the legal team of alleged drug lord Christopher “Dudus” Coke the contents of years of police wiretaps — and pay the costs of the court action.

Justice Patrick Brooks told Jamaica’s Attorney General Dorothey Lightbourne to pass the information to Mr Coke’s lawyers, including former Cayman Islands Grand Court Justice Priya Levers, who called the ruling a matter of “huge principle”.

“This shows a person is entitled to information about what is alleged against him,” Ms Levers told iNews.

“We also got costs in the matter,” she said, “which I think is unusual, and I would think are substantial. Especially as [Mr Coke ] is not in the jurisdiction, the judge says he was entitled to the information all along.”

In the ruling, covering wiretaps on Mr Coke’s telephone since 2004, Justice Brooks cited Jamaica’s constitution, saying, “Every person charged with an offence shall be afforded adequate facilities for the preparation of his defence. The fact that Mr Coke is facing prosecution outside of Jamaica should not, by itself, prevent him being allowed access to information which may assist his defence.“

Jamaica extradited Mr Coke, 42, to New York from Kingston in June 2010, on multiple charges of running drugs and guns into the United States. He is in custody in New York City, pending a 12 September hearing, likely to rely heavily on the wiretaps, in Manhattan’s Southern District court.

Calling the case “unusual”, Justice Brooks said Mr Coke’s motion had not been opposed by the Attorney-General, but cautioned that the names of those who had authorised the taps and the telephone numbers of those involved should not be revealed.

Ms Levers, employed by defence attorney Stephen Rosen as a consultant on Jamaican law, said the Kingston government had seven days to hand over transcripts, “sufficient time to prepare a defence,” she said.

Ms Levers, a lawyer and judge during a 25-year residence in Jamaica, left the Cayman Islands Grand Court in 2010, but has continued practice as a legal consultant. Employed last spring by Mr Rosen to aid in Mr Coke’s defence, she planned the courtroom challenge to the wiretaps.

Priya Levers

“Mr Coke had been in custody for almost a year, but nothing had been done,” she said. “The family contacted me because of my knowledge and experience, and after I became consultant, I thought about making the application.”

While not appearing herself in court, Ms Levers co-counsel argued the case before Justice Brooks.

On 8 July, Mr Rosen appeared in Manhattan court, arguing that wiretap evidence should be quashed because Jamaica authorities never told the Kingston court that international drug enforcement officials from the US would be party to the information, violating the Interception of Communications Act.

Judgement is still pending on the motion. Despite repeated efforts, Mr Rosen could not be contacted.

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