The Kingston, Jamaica, gang known as the Shower Posse rose to power in the 1980s and stretched its operations from Miami to New York. The Shower Posse was born in the rough and ruthless ghettos of Kingston, Jamaica. From the ’70s well into the ’80s they were one of several gangs used by Jamaica’s mainstream political parties as tools for extortion and intimidation. The Shower Posse expanded into the international smuggling of marijuana, sending shipments of ganga to secret air strips throughout the Florida Keys, but they didn’t become a truly feared force in U.S. until they became heavily involved in the trafficking of crack cocaine. Using Jamaica as a transportation stop for product moving from South America to the U.S., they then routed it to cities and towns from Miami all the way to Seattle, quickly becoming one of the most feared organizations on the streets. The name Shower Posse grew out of their reputation for “showering” their opponents with indiscriminant sprays of gunfire from automatic weapons. Vicious shootouts were their specialty. Multiple homicides in Miami, New Jersey and other cities around the U.S. made them more feared than the Bloods and the Crips in many cities. Enjoy!!
Producer Curtis Scoon Speaks On Bringing Shower Posse To The Screen
In Buju Banton’s classic “Untold Stories,” the DJ sings “I could go on and on the full has never been told.” The tale of Jamaica’s notorious Shower Posse is one such story. A recent BET American Gangster episode did scratch the surface, but the segment’s producer, Curtis Scoon, believes there is much more to be told. He’s not alone in that belief, but what sets him apart may be that he’s not scared to go in where others fear to tread. Scoon envisions The Shower Posse as a major motion picture, blending elements of hit films like. Scoon has a few untold stories of his own, so Boomshots.com linked with him to find out why he wants to tell a story that so many others seem scared to touch
BOOMSHOTS: WHEN YOU WERE WORKING ON THE BET AMERICAN GANGSTER EPISODE, DID YOU ALWAYS SEE THE SHOWER POSSE AS A FEATURE FILM?
Absolutely. That was my intention from the beginning. The story of the Shower Posse stirs a lot of emotion and controversy in the Caribbean community. It’s a hot-button topic. And for me as an aspiring filmmaker, that shows a lot of potential for the big screen. That base has never really been tapped. Of course we have the urban gangsters that have been portrayed time and time again, but for these people from the Caribbean to come into America and have such an impact… And when you examine the origins of the Shower Posse, to see that it is tied in to America too, it’s a fascinating story. It’s just that nobody really wants to touch it. It was so hard to even get Jamaicans willing to go on camera to speak about this.
This is not like a movie about John Dillinger or somebody who’s washed up or long dead and buried. There’s people who are still affected by it, who represent it. It’s a sensitive topic, but it’s one that I’m willing to deal with. And I guess I’m probably the only one willing to deal with it at this point because this story’s been there. People know it but they don’t want to get involved.
So to answer your question concisely, Yeah I wanted to make a movie. I saw opportunity there. I believe in chaos there’s opportunity. And this is a chaotic story. A chaotic period in Jamaican history as well as American history. It affects everyone.
AND AS YOU MENTIONED, IT’S MORE THAN JUST A GANGSTER OR A “HOOD” TALE, THERE’S AN INTERNATIONAL DIMENSION TO IT AS WELL.
Every guy who’s ever held a gun, spent the night in prison, or sold ten dollars worth of crack, thinks that his life is a movie. The thing is, when I decide that I want to work on a project and commit time and energy to it, it has to be something that impacts a broad cross-section of society. Not just one city, not just one neighborhood, not just one culture. Why would anybody else want to go to the movies and spend their ten bucks to see this? How can they connect or relate to it?
In every movie there has to be a universal message, a universal theme. And with the Shower Posse, the geopolitical aspect is something that plays out around the world in third world countries. What happened is not exclusive to Jamaica. This is going on in Africa right now, in Asia. It’s the same game, so people could identify with that. The little guy’s getting caught up in the battle between the big imperial forces. And the poor people, they suffer. They’re collateral damage in this chess game.
As a matter of fact, a heavyweight in world politics is a man named Zbigniew Brzezinksi. And he wrote a book called The Grand Chessboard, because that’s exactly how these people see the world. And you can believe that people like the Shower Posse, and the whole of Jamaica, I don’t know if they’re pawns on the chessboard. They might just be dust on the chessboard.
DAMN. THAT’S HARSH.
That’s the thing I want to bring out in the movie. Of course the backdrop will be the drugs, the violence. But something more serious is going on here that people need to know about. And it’s so much bigger than just Jamaica or Kingston. I wanna use what happened in Jamaica as a vehicle to bring some of this to light.
THE DEA AGENT IN YOUR BET EPISODE SEEMS LIKE HE IS NOT AS GUNG-HO NOW AS HE ONCE WAS.
Well like a lot of law enforcement personnel, they mean well. But they too are just pawns in a game being played out. On September 11, we just paid our respects to the anniversary of September 11, 2001. One thing I know through my ties on the street is that after September 11, it was virtually impossible for drug dealers to bring narcotics into the country. The borders were shut down. Canadian hydro dried up, that border was sealed. Cocaine coming from Mexico was sealed. So it can be stopped when wanted. How could they just shut it down all of a sudden after 9/11? Why not do that all the time?
WHAT HAPPENED TO THE WAR ON DRUGS?
If you arrest these guys—and as a black man, my feeling is this—I think black gangsters and drug dealers such as Vivian Blake, they pretty much provide convenient cover for the real bad guys. When it’s time to roll someone out, Well, Roll out the black guy. His face is on the news, he’s the most wanted, he’s the most dangerous criminal in the world. When actually he’s just a pawn in all of this. And he provides convenient cover for people who present themselves as being sophisticated and dignified and legitimate. We have to touch on all of that. I don’t wanna get too preachy in the movie, but I want to make clear this is not gonna be a glorification of ignorance and violence. There’s a profound message to be brought out in this movie, one that I think would resonate across different backgrounds, nationalities, and ethnicities. It’s not just a Jamaica story. It’s not just a black story. I don’t want to be involved in stereotypical projects—black guy sells drugs, he goes to jail, end of movie. I don’t have time for that. I want to do more meaningful work than that.
The other thing is, I understand a lot of Jamaicans, they’re not proud of being portrayed in the way that a lot of people see the Shower Posse, or the Spanglers, or the whole gun culture and what have you. But what they have to realize is that if you dig deep enough, the responsibility will not rest at their doorsteps so they need not worry.
VIVIAN BLAKE DOESN’T STRIKE ME AS IGNORANT. WHEN HE SAYS HIS TALENT WAS “SUPPRESSED BY CRIME,” IT SEEMS HE’S LOOKED BACK ON HIS LIFE AND REALIZED THAT HE COULD HAVE GONE A WHOLE DIFFERENT WAY.
Here’s the thing. There are a lot of guys like Vivian. The Vivian you spoke to is a 54-year-old man. And yes, he had what it takes to be whatever he chose, but limited opportunity. And the environment that he was thrust in helped mold him into what he became. So it wasn’t that he was ignorant, but there’s nature and nurture that help us become who we are. And he merely applied his intelligence in the wrong arena. It’s misplaced talent. That’s really what it boils down to, because he didn’t have the benefit of being born into a different family or a different socioeconomic bracket.
I identify with Vivian on that point. I too feel I’m someone who could have done a lot of things. But yo, you gotta play the hand that you’re dealt. And the important thing is not what anybody’s done in the past, but what they’re gonna do from here on out. I believe Vivian, it may be a little late, but it’s better late than never. He finally realized the impact that he could have, and how he misapplied his God-given talent and ability. He’s looking to make that right, and I’m willing to help him. That’s the important thing. I think a lot of people harp on the negative so much. But he’s here. He’s among us. What are you gonna do? He’s paid his debt and he’s trying to do right. You gotta give him a chance to be the man he says he is.
YOU SAY YOU IDENTIFY WITH VIVIAN BLAKE. LET’S TALK ABOUT THE PATH THAT YOU ARE ON NOW, AND THE PATH YOU TURNED AWAY FROM.
Well first I was a consultant on the Fat Cat Nichols episode of American Gangster, and that came about through work I did on a book called Queens Reigns Supreme with author Ethan Brown. But really all of that came about when I was thrust into the public eye by being wrongly accused of a crime. When I was accused in the murder of Jam Master Jay, it seemed like the worst thing that happened to me in my life. But in hindsight it was a turning point. It was really something that created the opportunity that I needed.
I’m the type of person that, no matter what the situation is, I find a way to use it to my advantage. In other words, I believe that a blessing and a curse are one and the same, the difference being in the application. When this thing happened to me, once I got over the initial shock, and successfully navigated my way through it, my natural inclination was: Okay, now how can I make this work for me?
AND IT HAS.
But it’s not by chance. I forced it. I reached out to people. I knew all they wanted to talk about was what I was accused of. So I gave them want they wanted, and while doing so I slipped in what I needed them to know. I needed them to know, Yo, there’s more to me than this. I’m not a street thug. I have projects. I have talent. I believe I have a gift. And I just needed an opportunity for it to show and shine through.
Someone told me that fire is necessary for purification, and anything hardened and ready for battle must come through the fire. That part of my life, that was the fire. We must all come through the fire, each and every man, our own personal fire. What it boils down to is, you’ll either come through the fire, or you’ll succumb to it. And I believe I’ve come through the fire. So now I’m ready. That thing closed a chapter on my life. If I had any thoughts of going back where I came from, that made it absolutely impossible. So here I am, moving forward with the things that I do.
I believe my path, my lifestyle, prepared me to be comfortable with men like Vivian, and to really understand them. I don’t know anyone else that would have wanted to do this project with him. Not because he would have threatened them—he was one of the best subjects I’ve worked with thus far—but simply because they wouldn’t understand it. They would have preconceived notions, but I’ve been around too many guys and I’ve been in so many situations. Where the average filmmaker would be scared to death to do this story, even though he would want to, I’m not. My past prepared me for a lot of this.
IN YOUR PAST LIFE, WHAT WAS YOUR IMPRESSION OF THE SHOWER POSSE?
In the BET episode I produced, there was a segment that dealt with five people who were killed in an apartment in Landover Maryland. I used to be right around that area. That was across the street from Landover Mall. The apartment complex was called Village in the Woods. I ran into guys who said they were in the Shower Posse. To me they were just like anybody else at that time. They were trying to get their money. The ’80s was a time when that type of activity was rampant in American urban centers. I ran into the Shower Posse guys in Philly. I didn’t hang out with ’em. We might exchange a few words in a restaurant or a barber shop and keep it moving. But my impression of them? To me they were just doing what everyone else was doing—taking advantage of the times and the situation and makin’ money. I didn’t know their political origins at that time. I didn’t concern myself with that. I was a young guy. I was too busy trying to make money myself. Honestly they do have a fearsome reputation and all of that. But yo, there were a lot of people who had reputations back then. Yo, nuff respect to the Shower, but they weren’t the only badmen on the scene. There was plenty back then. There really was.
YET SOMEHOW THEIR LEGEND HAS LOOMED LARGER THAN MOST WITH THE PASSAGE OF TIME. IT SEEMS THE SHOWER POSSE HAS TAKEN ON THIS EXTRA AURA OF FEAR AND RESPECT.
I think the politics has a lot to do with that. Where other guys are just little outfits making money—you know, self-serving. But the allegations of the Shower having deeper ties and connections and what have you, I think that piqued the interest of people and it caused their legacy to live on. It’s deeper. If you have a criminal organization allegedly connected to a foreign government that is allegedly aligned with the U.S. government—and they’re wreaking havoc in the U.S.—people wanna know, what the hell is going on? This ain’t the crips and bloods. This is something more serious.
IT’S NOT EVEN SCARFACE.
It’s deeper than Scarface. It’s like, Man—what the hell is going on here? I think there’s a lot of people who are curious if the rumors and allegations are true as far as ties to the CIA and all of this stuff. People wanna know, Is there any validity to that? That’s not your local gang or group of drug dealers. There’s something more nefarious going on there.
IN THE VIDEO THAT VIVIAN BLAKE MADE, HE SHOUTS OUT IRV GOTTI AS PART OF THE TEAM THAT’S PUTTING THIS FILM TOGETHER. WHAT IS HIS ROLE IN THIS?
Well, I’ve known Irv for a long time. We’re from the same neighborhood, literally walking distance from each other. I’m a little bit older than him, but we’re from the same area. We move in the same circles. I presented the idea to Irv and I called Vivian and let Vivian and Irv speak on the phone. At this point, Irv and I are gonna produce this film together. Through his contacts, we’re gonna secure the proper backing and distribution. So it’s a symbiotic relationship with Irv and myself as far as this project is concerned. I have the content, I did the groundwork, I laid the foundation. And he has the contacts. We’re gonna work it together. That’s where we are with that. It’s looking pretty good but I don’t wanna say anything definitve at this moment,
SOME OF THE COMMENTS ON THIS BLOG AND ELSEWHERE WERE SAYING, I CAN’T WAIT TO SEE THIS MOVIE. BUT OTHERS WERE SKEPTICAL, LIKE: WHAT DOES IRV GOTTI KNOW ABOUT THE SHOWER POSSE? DOES HE REALLY UNDERSTAND THE CULTURE ENOUGH TO TELL THIS STORY PROPERLY?
For people with those concerns, first I wanna say, let’s give it a chance before the criticisms come. Second, everybody has their role. What Irv brings to the table is an established name and relationships in high places that could make it happen. That’s what he does, and he’s gonna do that well.
A lot of people don’t understand how things work. Take my experience with Queens Reigns Supreme. Ethan Brown is not from Queens. He’s not black. He’s not even from New York. But the bottom line is, he was able to make that book happen. Whereas no one who lived in Queens, who knew the story intimately, either thought about it, or made the effort to get it done. And if they did, they obviously didn’t succeed. Man, just take the progress. If there’s people out there who think they can do a better job, they should either one, do it, or two, wait till someone else does it and then let that create the opportunity for them to come with their own ideas. For all the people who think they’re experts, why haven’t you done anything with it? Because you can’t. That’s why. And don’t get mad because someone else is right now.
With the movie American Gangster, the first thing a lot of people did was comment on Frank Lucas’s status as an alleged snitch, the inaccuracy of the movie. But they missed, because the tendency of negative people is to always focus on tearing down, and not seeing opportunity. What they missed was the fact that Hollywood took interest in a guy like Frank Lucas meant that the door was open for more stories like that. They totally missed that. Because they only know how to tear stuff down. I ignore people like that.
If there’s other people in Jamaica who want to do a story on Jamaican culture. I think a movie like The Shower Posse will open the door for that to happen. And maybe the next time it won’t be Irv. It’ll be a Jamaican filmmaker. You have to hope that things work out, and be glad that someone took interest in something you’re familiar with.
ARE YOU PLANNING TO SHOOT THE FILM IN JAMAICA?
Well, that’s tricky. For me, being someone of Caribbean descent, and respecting the balance of society in Jamaica, I would not want to do anything that would disrupt things in Jamaica. I understand there’s some situations going on right now politically in Jamaica. I wouldn’t want to play a part in igniting anything. So I’m gonna watch carefully and see what the climate is there, and talk to the people who would be most affected by this, and see if it’s okay with them. I wouldn’t want to cause any undue stress in Jamaica. This PNP / JLP thing is very very serious in that country. I understand that and I respect it. And I know there’s a lot of people who will be concerned about how Jamaica will be portrayed in this movie. The only thing I wanna make clear to them is that Jamaicans will not be the bad guys in this film.
IT’S ABOUT SHOWING THE BIGGER PICTURE.
The story I’m telling is bigger than Jamaica. And that’s what I want people to understand.
Back In Jamaica, The Former Shower Posse Boss Is Making Movies.
“No interviews please” Vivian Blake returning to Jamaica on January 29, 2009.
After spending eight years in U.S. prison on federal racketeering and drug charges, Vivian Blake was escorted back to the land of his birth by U.S. Marshalls along with 51 other deportees just over seven months ago. The former Shower Posse Boss spent his time behind bars developing his skills as a writer, and plans to tell his stories on the big screen. In his first interview since coming home, he tells Boomshots.com about his plans for the future.
BOOMSHOTS: SO, YOU’RE HOME AGAIN. WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU WERE IN JAMAICA?
I got arrested in 94 January.
THAT’s 15 YEARS AGO. WHAT HAS CHANGED FROM THAT TIME UNTIL NOW?
It’s really the same, it’s just that the young kids that I remember two, three years old are men now. And people are smarter now in Jamaica. I think people are trying to make a life more in Jamaica. But it’s not that easy.
NO, THE WHOLE WORLD IS UNDER PRESSURE WITH THIS ECONOMIC CRISIS.
Yeah. It’s not that easy. But people are thinking more business-wise. People on a whole.
IS IT ANY EASIER FOR A GHETTO YOUTH IN JAMAICA TO GET A START IN LIFE?
Nah, it’s not easy. It’s like if you’re down, you’re down. And that’s not a good thing. It’s like the system forces illegal activity. Y’understand? It forces. Because things are so high. Things for poor people are exceptionally high. Because the sneakers that poor people wear is 7 or 8 thousand dollars. The sneakers that a rich guy wear is 500 dollars.
WHY IS THAT?
[laughs] God He knows.
WHAT ABOUT SCHOOL FEES? WHAT DOES IT COST TO SEND A CHILD TO SCHOOL?
That part is good. It’s now free school, free for the kids. That part is good.
BUT IF YOU HAVE A GOOD EDUCATION AND NO JOB…
That’s a no-no. And there’s lots of that. You can’t get a job and if you do get the job you ain’t being paid. You don’t want to go to school and get the best education in the world, and you can’t find somewhere decent to live because you can’t pay. You still got to be living in that wooden patch because you can’t afford that rent that costs 2000 U.S. a month.
WHAT SORTS OF WORK ARE YOU GONNA FOCUS ON NOW?
First, I’m trying to look about a movie that I’ve written. It’s called “Dancehall.”
SO YOU WROTE THAT SCREENPLAY YOURSELF.
By myself. Yeah. It’s about two American girls who go to school in New York, college. They wanted to learn the Jamaican dancehall dances. So they came down in the summer after school and they got introduced to a friend in the ghetto who showed them around.. They were staying in a hotel, but they preferred to live in the ghetto to learn the culture more. They found that it’s a different type of dancing from they’re used to in America.
THAT’S FOR SURE.
They wanted to excel—and they did.
As dancers. But the story is they met some guys. And one of them met a guy who is the boyfriend of the girl who introduced her to the community. Ended up in problem.
SOME JEALOUSY THING?
Jealousy thing. At the end of the day, one of them died. So the other one had to go back to the States—after winning the competition too—to bury her friend.
SO ARE THESE JAMAICAN GIRLS WHO JUST LIVE IN THE STATES?
No—American girls. This is a movie for North America and Jamaica audience, but mostly North American. You understand, I’m doing it broad. I’m not just sitting on Jamaica Jamaica. But I want everybody to understand this movie.
SOME OF THOSE THINGS HAPPEN IN REAL LIFE.
And we have a girl in America, who will be playing the lead role. Her name is Tanisha. She’s a choreographer in Brooklyn.
I KNOW TANISHA. SHE CHOREOGRAPHS ALL THOSE SEAN PAUL VIDEOS.
Yeah. My son has been in touch with her and she’s ready. Yeah. And we haven’t choose anybody yet. But truthfully, I’m thinking of that girl who was with 50 Cent.
OH, YOU MEAN OLIVIA.
I THINK SHE HAS A WEST INDIAN BACKGROUND.
Yeah, but it doesn’t have to be her. It could be a Meagan Good. It could be any American. You know? Yeah. That’s my next project.
DO YOU HAVE ANY OTHER SCRIPTS?
I’ve written—what? Almost 40 scripts since I’ve been in prison.
WOW. YOU’VE BEEN BUSY.
Yeah, 40 scripts and about 10 books.
MOSTLY DEALING WITH JAMAICAN TOPICS?
No. Only about 10 or 12 of them deal with Jamaican things. But most is situated in America. And even the ones that are dealing with Jamaican things, it’s really broad.
LIKE JAMAICA IS BROAD.
Yeah. I have some good scripts. Trust me, if I get the right backing… Crazy scripts.
ARE ALL THE THINGS YOU’VE WRITTEN FICTION OR DID YOU DO ANY NON-FICTION TOO?
I did a nonfiction but with different names. I call it “Dancehall Catwalk,” right? That is all about how I started the dancehall movement when I was on the run.
I DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT THAT. HOW DID THAT GO?
I NEVER KNEW THAT. THAT’S A FAMOUS CLUB.
Yeah. What I did was I had a show with the Stush models, right? I kept a show at the club with them top models. But the crowd was lukewarm. I expected a bigger turnout than that. So like I met a dancehall girl—which you know Dancehall Queen Carleene?
SURE, THE ONE WHO USED TO BE WITH BEENIE MAN.
Yes, she. I met her before and I saw her album and saw the clothes that she wore. And after this show I start reflecting, You know, if I can put those girls together, against the top models—just a clash. I’m wondering what impact that could have. And trust me it was an impact. That was one of the biggest show ever. The club held 1500 people and there was 1500 people inside and about 4000 outside. That was how big that show was. I did a script based on that.
SO THAT WAS THE BEGINNING OF CACTUS?
Yeah that was the beginning of Cactus Nightclub. I sold it just when my name hit the papers. I sold it from way back then—about 16 years ago, 17.
THAT WAS A LEGENDARY CLUB IN DANCEHALL CULTURE OVER THE YEARS.
I’ve had people tell me “Look what you did. You introduced that dancehall thing into Jamaica, and now it’s crazy. You introduce the people being naked—and now it’s crazy.”
BUT BACK THEN IT WAS DIFFERENT. NOW THEY HAVE A THING CALLED DAGGERIN’.
Yeah, this is something different. It was better back then. This is raw now. It’s causing all kind of problems on the radio and all kind of things.
YEAH IT’S LIKE THEY WANT TO BAN DANCEHALL OVERALL.
Yeah cause I was at a meeting two nights ago, and that’s all they were talking about. We had a meeting for the dancehall fraternity.
SO WHAT DO YOU THINK WILL HAPPEN? IS DANCEHALL IN TROUBLE?
Nah—it’s nine days. Nine day talk. That’s all I think that is. It will cool down. Things like this happen before.
ARE YOU INVOLVED IN ANY DANCEHALL PRODUCTION NOW? IS THAT SOMETHING YOU WANT TO DO?
DID YOU GO TO COLLEGE IN THE STATES?
Nah, Jamaica… Well, yeah, I went to college in prison.
WITH ALL THE WRITING YOU’VE DONE I CAN TELL YOU ARE AN EDUCATED PERSON.
I went to the best school in Jamaica. High school, it was like a college, like a junior college.
WHAT SCHOOL WAS THAT?
BUT THEN YOU WENT TO COLLEGE IN PRISON?
Yeah. But you see, even before I went to college I was a writer. I was a writer at eight years old. At eight years old. But it’s funny, right? You know. I didn’t remember being a writer until I went to prison. All that skill was suppressed by crime. The day I got in prison, or I’d say it was about ten months after I got to prison, I started reflecting back on my youth. And remembered that I had written about five songs.
OH IT WAS SONGS YOU WERE WRITING THEN?
Yeah. And I remembered three of the songs, and I rewrote them. And then I start thinking, I want to write some movies. And what I did, right? Caw the prison had a little bitty libray. And I went up to the library, and guess what I found? A book teaching you how to format screenplays. I’m wondering how could a book like that be in a Jamaican prison? And I took the book and I went back to my cell, and I studied.
THIS WAS IN GENERAL PENITENTIARY?
General Penitentiary. And I studied this book. And I decided I’m gonna start writing screenplays. And I wrote three screenplays, right? I was so excited about it. I contacted a director. She was from California. Her name was Carolyn Pfeiffer. She was living in Jamaica at the time, right? So I sent her three screenplays, and she read them. And she said, “Good. But you know what? I can tell you in which order you wrote the screenplays.” And she told me the order. And I said, How did you know that? She said “Because you’re getting better and better and better. Continue doing it.” And that was all the encouragement I needed.
WERE YOU WORKING BY HAND OR DID YOU HAVE ACCESS TO A TYPEWRITER?
By hand. I don’t think I could type a screeplay. Because the things come to me when I’m writing. I don’t think it would come to me that easy if I was typing. It just flow. I’m going to tell you a story. It look so far-fetched, but I think it’s a spirit doing the writing. I feel that way. Because you know I can never read back my screenplays.
WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU CAN’T READ THEM BACK?
Somebody else got to read it. I can’t read it over. For some reason I just can’t.
THAT’S KIND OF SPOOKY.
It’s spooky! [laughs] You know? I can’t.
WHO DO YOU THINK MIGHT BE SPEAKING THROUGH YOU?
I don’t know, becaause I can’t say. I don’t know what to say. But you see when I finish writing a screenplay or I finish write for the day, I’m like dizzy. Like I can’t do nothing but go to sleep. I’m not myself. So it puzzles me. And guess what? I don’t have to outline a screenplay; I write straight and I do a screenplay in five days. It takes some people two three four years to write a screenplay. I do it in five days. As I write the thing’s coming.
SO THIS IS A TALENT THAT WAS SUPPRESSED ALL THESE YEARS?
It was suppressed. Yeah, yeah man. I’m going to send you some. And you might know some friends who know some friends who know some friends. I want it to be published. I want to be known—not as a gangster. I want to be known as a writer, an artist. A different life. And trust me I’ve got the books
YOU SPENT YOUR TIME WELL.
I didn’t make it go to waste. I came out of prison with five unfinished scripts. Only the ending is left. And the reason why I couldn’t finish them is the anticipation of gettin’ out. Cause I did these in the last four months, just to make some time go by. But just thinking on it, I don’t want to rush the ending. So I left them where I stop, and brought them back with me.
SPEAKING OF YOUR RELEASE, WHY WERE YOU RELEASED EARLY? I READ THAT YOU GOT A 28-YEAR SENTENCE.
Okay, yeah. I plead guilty to 28 years. And I got two 14 years, different from the 28. It was four counts. I got 20 years on one, right? Eight years on one. They run that together, so that makes the 28. And they gave me two 14 years. But they run that together too. So I had the 28 and the 14 that run together. So what they did was run that 14 with the 28 at the same time. So my sentence was just 28 years.
Now the parole board… For that matter, the parole officers wanted to parole me early because I was good in school. I am just 13 credits away from my associate degree. Ya understand? One semester I could do that.
WHAT WERE YOU STUDYING?
Business administration. My record was good. I never fought in prison. I never had problems. So when I went up for parole, it was 2000 and three. They told me I would be paroled 2000 and four. But when they went to the commission, ca’ you know the commission gotta send the paper, they say, Nah. I am going to go back to my murderous ways. That’s their exact words.
WAS THAT A JAMAICAN COMMISSION OR AN AMERICAN COMMISSION?
No the Americans. And they give me a date of 2000 and nine, the fourth of January. I re-applied and they had to throw that out because they were wrong, because my level was seven and not eight. And I beat them again, and the parole officer said—this is 2005 now—I’m gonna get paroled in June 2005. It went back to the commission again. They say Nah, he’s gonna go back to his murderous ways—2009. So I just say, Aw, I ain’t gonna bother fight them. I fought them through court but I lost. But coming out 2009 is based on parole. They say I had to do 15 years before I could get the parole. So that’s how I got out.
HAVING DONE YOUR TIME, DO YOU PLAN TO LEAVE ALL THAT IN THE PAST?
In the past. I ain’t mad at nobody. Y’understand? I ain’t mad at nobody. I get out, I’m just moving on. But my life has changed. I got my kids. I got to think about them. I got my grandkids.
YOU BECAME A GRANDFATHER SINCE YOU WERE IN PRISON?
Yeah, I got three grandkids. The buck stops with me. Ain’t no more illegal people in my family. Never. Never. I’m done with it. So that’s it. I’ve been done with it now for 15 years. And even more than that. Twenty years. Cause I was in Jamaica for five years and I wasn’t in nothing illegal. So I ain’t gonna start now.
JUST SHAKE IT OFF.
Yeah, shake it off. That’s why I desperately want to do the books. When I say desperately, I just want them to see that I wanna do something positive. Y’understand? I can give any publisher the best books, cause I’ll put my all in it.
I WANTED TO ASK ABOUT BET’S AMERICAN GANGSTER EPISODE ON THE SHOWER POSSE. DID YOU LIKE HOW THAT CAME OUT?
You know, my daughter had a copy of it. And I watched—I think it was last week I watched it for the first time. Where I was, I was at Springfield Medical Center in Missouri. They didn’t have BET. That’s so crazy. That’s the first, only prison in the BOP that doesn’t have BET.
SO YOU COULDN’T WATCH IT LIVE.
So we couldn’t watch it.
THEY SAY IT WAS ONE OF THE MOST POPULAR EPISODES EVER.
Yeah, that’s what I heard.
WHAT’S YOUR REVIEW OF THE EPISODE, NOW THAT YOU HAD A CHANCE TO WATCH IT?
[laughs] It’s graphic. It’s really compelling.
YES IT WAS. THERE WAS SOME REALLY POWERFUL STUFF IN THERE.
I’m telling you.
BUT YOU THINK THEY DID A GOOD JOB OVERALL?
Yeah, really good production. Scoon did his homework.
YOU NEED THE RIGHT PERSON TO TACKLE SOMETHING LIKE THAT.
That’s for sure.
AND CURTIS SCOON IS GOING TO BE INVOLVED IN BRINGING THE SHOWER POSSE MOVIE TO THE BIG SCREEN?
Yeah. Scoon and Irv Gotti.
SO I UNDERSTAND THAT THE SHOWER POSSE MOVIE IS GOING TO BE MORE THAN JUST A GANGSTER FLICK.
No. This movie’s not just about gangsta and drug dealing, it’s about a culture that nobody has ever seen. I have the utmost confidence in Scoon and Irv Gotti.
ON THE AMERICAN GANGSTER EPISODE THERE WAS A WHOLE SECTION ABOUT BOB MARLEY GETTING SHOT. IS THERE ANYTHING YOU WANT TO SAY ABOUT THAT?
Not really, because it’s a sticky subject. But me and him was okay.
YOU AND BOB?
Bottom line: politicians used him and put him in problems. Cause that’s not Bob’s calling to be on any political stage. No, that’s not him.
AND HE SANG A SONG THAT SAID “NEVER MAKE A POLITICIAN GRANT YOU A FAVOR. THEY WILL ALWAYS WANT TO CONTROL YOU FOREVER.”
I was in the States then. I wasn’t in Jamaica then. So I can’t tell you details. But the bottom line, it wasn’t something he was doing for politics.
THEY MADE IT LOOK LIKE THE CONCERT HE WAS PLAYING WAS POLITICAL.
They made it look that way by calling the election right after. It look like he was on a political rally. You understand? But that wasn’t it. I know that for sure. But I was in the States, so a lot of things with that I can’t say.
SO YOU AND BOB WERE COOL.
Yeah, we were cool. We were cool. As a matter of fact, I was supposed to do some of his shows. To promote some of his shows just before he died.
WHERE WAS THAT? IN FLORIDA?
In Florida, New York—he was just showing me the machinery how I need to get the things done cause it have to be done professionally and whatever. And then he just went. You know? Because for real, back then I was gonna go complete legit if I had that push. Y’understand?
AND BOB WAS A MAN WHO COULD GIVE YOU THAT PUSH.
Yeah, he had the world in the palm of his hand. And if you start a promotion with Bob it will go a far way. Yunno? Nah man, Bob was a person who I personally love Bob Marley. The situation with that, that was political. And I was in America then, so… But me, I have a lot of love for Bob Marley. I still have pictures with me and him together at the Marriott Essex House just before he died.
COMING BACK TO JAMAICA IN 2009, WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN YOURSELF THEN AND NOW?
That’s a complete 360. A complete 360. For one, my brain works better. Works much better.
AND YOUR DIRECTION IN LIFE IS DIFFERENT NOW?
Different. Now, what I really want to do is help poor people. That’s what I really wanna do. And I’m gonna work hard so I can do that. I think I can do it. I know I can do it.
YOU’VE HAD PLENTY OF CRITICS, AT HOME AND ABROAD. PEOPLE ARE ASKING WHAT YOU ARE REALLY GONNA CONTRIBUTE TO SOCIETY. WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS?
Well I have a non-profit organization, Inner City Nation. And I’m gonna use reggae dancehall music to propel that organization with the help of a lot of entertainers.
DANCEHALL MUSIC MAKES REAL MONEY NOW. IT’S NOT JUST GHETTO MUSIC.
It makes money, but I think it only makes money for a few. But if it’s compounded, it is a hell of a force and it will make money for all. But it’s got to be compounded. Everybody work together. Because dancehall music, especially for the Jamaican artists, you’ve got 50 artists, but only 3 of them sells. People in the world love all their music, but only 3 sells. And out of that 3 only one really sell real big. But the people love the music worldwide. So why not compound the music and come with one force?
WHEN YOU SAY COMPOUND THE MUSIC, WILL YOU BE ABLE TO BRING TOGETHER THE ARTISTS WHO HAVE RIVALRIES WITH ONE ANOTHER?
That’s my plan. Compound the music. We need one force. Everybody get big paychecks. I’m talking bout million-dollar U.S. paychecks per year.
OTHERS HAVE TRIED TO DO THIS BEFORE.
I can do it. All they’ve got to do is follow my lead. And all I want them to do is just entertain. Nothing different from what they’re doing. I ain’t messing with their contracts. I ain’t messing with their music. I ain’t messing with nothing. Just do what you do best—entertain. You ain’t got no contracutral traps. Just do what you do best: rap or sing—and I will take care of the rest.
DO YOU THiNK YOUR CRITICS AND THE CRITICS OF DANCEHALL WILL ALLOW THAT TO HAPPEN?
Well I think they will. Because the unity will be there now. Plus we have a nonprofit organization to help the kids, help the old folks. I want people to be able to get medicine for cheap. You see like how you got Walmart, selling a month supply for four dollars? That’s how I want it in Jamaica. That’s my plan.
THAT’S A BIG BATTLE TO FIGHT. PRESIDENT OBAMA’S TRYING TO DO SOMETHING LIKE THAT HERE IN THE STATES.
It can be done. We might need a little help from the government but we can do it on our own. I know we can reach out to the pharmaceuticals in America and get these pills for pennies. Why not help the poor people? You know that death in Jamaica because of lack of medication is more than gun crime?
NO I DID NOT.
Yeah! But nobody looks at it. Nobody try to check the statistics.
BUT IT’S BEEN A BAD YEAR FOR GUN CRIME TOO.
Yeah, but the poor is dying because of lack of money to buy medicine because it’s expensive. You know how many people can’t dialyze in Jamaica? They can’t because they can’t afford it. It’s up to 300 U.S. dollars per treatment, and you have to have cash. No insurance company covers it.
SO IF YOU NEED IT, YOU HAVE TO HAVE THE CASH OR…
You die. That’s just it. And people are dying left, right, and center because of it. Plus you have to buy your own medicine. After you pay 300 dollars now. 300 dollars in Jamaica is almost 30,000 Jamaica dollars per treatment. You know what the minimum wage is per week?
NO, WHAT IS IT?
For the entire week. And one treatment in dialysis can run you up to 30,000.
A dialysis person needs it at least two times. You’re supposed to do it three times in a week. So that’s 100,000 dollars for the week, and you’re earning 3,500 dollars per week.
THAT’S NEVER GONNA WORK.
Tell me how you gonna make that money?
Yeah. I would like to set up a dialysis center where the people come free who can’t afford it. And the ones who can afford it will pay.
THAT SOUNDS LIKE A HUGE UNDERTAKING.
I’m telling you. But it’s critical. It’s critical.
IT SOUNDS LIKE YOU KNOW AN AWFUL LOT ABOUT DIALYSIS. IS THAT SOMETHING YOU’RE FACING YOURSELF?
Yeah. I’ll be okay. But what about the people who can’t be okay? You understand? Within a couple of months I’ll be getting a kidney.
YOU SAID YOUR TALENTS WERE SUPPRESSED BY CRIME. AND YOU TALKED ABOUT THE PRESSURES FACING THE YOUTH AND DRIVING THEM TOWARDS CRIME. HOW CAN YOU HELP OTHER PEOPLE FROM MAKING THE SAME MISTAKES YOU MADE?
Well I’m planning soon to probably do some school speaking engagement. As soon as the nonprofit organization get off the ground. Because I wanna be dealing with kids. Especially the girls—that’s the beginning of the future. You can reach the girls, the young girls, quicker than you can reach the young guys.
I have two god-daughters that I’m gonna be sending through college. I’m instilling in them this different type of life. Go to school. I’ll give you everything. Just go to school. One say she want to be a lawyer. One wants to do business administration.
It’s not easy with the men, but it’s easier with the girls. Because they’re gonna be the ones to be producing, cause they gonna have kids. And if they are trained certain way, they ain’t gon’ make their kids go mean. So I’m working strongly with the girls and the few kids who I can work with. Cause some at the age of 14 or 15 they’ve already broken wild. But a young girl at 14, 15, 16, you can still turn her around.
SO YOU DON’T HAVE ANY HOPE FOR THESE YOUNG MEN OUT HERE?
Yes I do, but it’s just a little harder. Let me tell you what can do it: Financing. Trust me—I can work with the men. But it takes financing. That’s the bottom line. I would like to do it on my own, so I would like do to something that can bring financing. Remember I said I want to do the thing with these entertainers, form a one group so they can get million-dollar checks? That would enable me to help more youth. Cause I’ll be getting checks too, same like the artists. So I would have a level where I can give more. The environment is so spoiled, but you can bring it back. You just have to have the funds to do it. Even America—look at it. Who do you think buy Nike? The poor kids.
AS YOU SAID BEFORE, THE POOR MAN’S SHOE COSTS $7000 WHILE THE RICH MAN’S MIGHT COST $500.
Yeah! You understand. Because they were taught different. So it’s hard to bring them around. The rich guy already taught his kids, invest. Don’t spend your money on this. These kids all they think about is fun and looking pretty. And looking pretty is expensive because they don’t want that jeans that cost 15 dollars.
THEY WANT TO FEEL GOOD ABOUT THEMSELVES SO THEY BUY THESE FANCY THINGS.
You understand what I’m saying. So if I can get that… My idea is teaching people how to fish, not giving them the fish. So don’t feel like if I get that money to do this, it’s gonna be given away. No, you’ll get a loan. You won’t pay any interest, but you pay it back. You have to have some responsibility. So we set up people here and there, that means we build economy in the inner city. That’s why I call it Inner City Nation. Build an economy, open up bakeries, snack shops, this and that… just for inner city. Create an economy for the Inner City Nation. Y’understand? And make where kids can get their books, they can get their uniforms. And they won’t be able to rape the system, but they can get what they need in order to excel.
THAT’S NOT A SMALL TASK.
I’m just praying to God. I think it’s gonna work though.
SO MAYBE ALL THESE ROADS YOU WALKED…
Was for a reason.
Published: Sunday | September 6, 2009
Reputed Shower Posse leader Vivian Blake leaving the Central Police Station on Thursday, January 29.
THE YEAR was 1988 when the United States (US) Drug Enforcement Authority (DEA) named Vivian Blake and Lester Lloyd 'Jim Brown' Coke in an unsealed indictment. The charges were drug trafficking, racketeering, murder, illegal trade and purchase of weapons, bribery, among other crimes.
A dragnet was set for the 34 persons named in the indictment but Coke and Blake escaped. It was to be the start of a massive attempt to trap members of the Shower Posse, which grew out of Tivoli Gardens, West Kingston, and had spread its tentacles throughout the US.
US Federal Authorities said then that they had taken into custody two of the Shower Posse alleged ring leaders, Errol Hussing and Tony Bruce.
Blake, charged with the most serious counts, faced a maximum of 390 years in prison and US$15.5 million in fines. It was the first time the Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organisation had been used against Jamaicans.
Coke, more commonly called Jim Brown, died in a fire in his cell at the General Penitentiary in Kingston on February 23, 1992, while awaiting extradition to Florida on the charges.
Morrison, also called Storyteller, was, like Coke, awaiting extradition to the United Stated on drug, murder and arms charges. He was extradited to the US because of an administrative error in June 1992, and in May 1993 was sentenced to 241/2 years without parole on cocaine charges.
Blake had escaped to Jamaica and made Jamaica's most-wanted list until he was captured and extradited. When he was being taken away from the South block of the St Catherine District Prison, hands and feet in cuffs, Blake reportedly complained that the handcuffs were too tight but was whisked away in a JDF helicopter.
He pleaded guilty to conspiracy and possessing cocaine with intent to distribute the drug in the US and was sentenced to 28 years in prison for racketeering in 2000. He returned to Jamaica in January.
In May, two other Shower Posse members were extradited to the United States to face multiple drug charges.
Tonya Brown, 36, and David Stewart, 34, who US officials believed were members of the infamous drug ring, were extradited to the US on May 22 to face charges of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and conspiracy to distri-bute cocaine and cocaine base, crack.
Brown, a cosmetologist of Spanish Town Road, Kingston 11, and Stewart, unemployed, resided in Independence City, Portmore, St Catherine. Both were held in proximity to the Kingston Public Hospital by the Jamaica Constabulary Force's fugitive apprehension team on March 26 and extradited two months later.
Reins of power
Late last month, attention was turned to Christopher 'Dudus' Coke, who 'sits' in for Prime Minister Bruce Golding, who represents West Kingston in Parliament.
Dudus, son of Jim Brown, took over the reins of power in the tough enclave of Tivoli Gardens, West Kingston, after his elder brother, 'Jah T', was murdered in the People's National Party (PNP) stronghold of Maxfield Avenue, St Andrew.
Should Dudus be uprooted from his base, Sunday Gleaner source says his brother, 'Livity', is poised to take over.
He is wanted in the US for alleged narcotics and arms trafficking. Several attempts to reach Justice Minister Dorothy Lightbourne via email and telephone for an update on an extradition hearing were unsuccessful.
... Cases in point
LEFT: Police escorting Donovan Williams (left) to the Corporate Area Resident Magistrate's Court on March 10, 2004, for his extradition hearing
RIGHT: Leebert Ramcharan being escorted to the Corporate Area Resident Magistrate's Court on March 10, 2004, for his extradition hearing.
IT IS never a done deal that an accused will be extradited whenever the justice minister signs the request for extradition to begin.
A few Jamaicans have escaped extradition after proving in court that there has been a miscarriage of justice.
The most recent cases are those of Colin Dwight Headley, Newton Barnes and Walter Gilbert Byles.
Headley was released from prison in 1999 after he applied for a writ of habeas corpus on the grounds that there was no proof of the illegal drugs he was alleged to have distributed in the United States (US).
Headley was wanted in the US to face drug-related charges but there was no evidence to show that the substance was cocaine or cocaine-based.
Headley's lawyers Ian Ramsay, QC, and Jacqueline Samuels-Brown argued that it would be unjust and oppressive to extradite Headley in the circumstances where the evidence against him consisted of uncorroborated hearsay testimony by convicted persons.
In the case of Barnes, a building contractor of Kingston, the Supreme Court freed him in 1995 for various reasons, which included the inordinate long time of 17 years from the date of the alleged offences for which extradition was sought. The court said it would be oppressive to extradite Barnes after such an inordinate delay.
Meanwhile, the court frowned at the long delay from the time of the alleged offences and when extradition was being sought, and said it would be unjust and oppressive to extradite Byles.
A warrant was issued for Byles' arrest in 1988 but the request for extradition was not made until September 1993. Byles was arrested in Jamaica in November 1994.
The Court of Appeal upheld submissions from attorneys Ian Ramsay and Jacqueline Samuels-Brown that Byles had been working in Jamaica since 1988 and did not conceal his whereabouts or sought to evade arrest.
Meanwhile, several Jamaicans in recent years have not had much luck in fighting extradition requests.
In July 2008, five natives were extradited to the US to face drug charges.
The men are Robroy Williams, also known as 'Spy', 51; Norris Nembhard, aka 'Dido', 53; Glenford Williams, aka 'Toe', 55; Vivian Dalley, aka 'Jungo', 49, and Herbert Henry, aka 'Scary', 46, pleaded guilty to the charges against them, the US Justice Ministry reported on Monday.
The men all pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy to import more than five kilograms of cocaine and more than 1000 kilograms of marijuana into the US.
Leebert Ramcharan and Donovan 'Plucky' Williams also fought extradition requests and failed in 1997. Both have been convicted by a US federal court in Miami and are now serving time in prison.
Jamaica is still to liquidate the assets of persons extradited.
Acting Commissioner of Police Glenmore Hinds, head of Kingfish, said that no final resolution has been reach in respect to the assets of persons extradited.
"The assets recovery is part of the investigation. You might take physical possession of the asset but there is a process for final resolution of it and those processes are still ongoing," Hinds said.
The Proceeds of Crimes Act allows the state to seize assets which have been acquired through illegal means.
...A legacy of infamy
Sunday, September 06, 2009
TIVOLI Gardens strongman Christopher 'Dudus' Coke, who the US Department of State last week branded one of the world's most dangerous narco criminals, is the latest member of the Coke family to have made headlines for the wrong reasons.
The US Drug Enforcement Agency says Coke has inherited the reins of the notorious Shower Posse and has accused him of trafficking in cocaine, marijuana and arms.
|The bullet-riddled bodies of Christopher 'Chris Royal' Coke (right) and his crony 'Jello' at the intersection of West King's House and Waterloo roads in St Andrew on the night of May 4, 2005. (File photo)|
Coke, also known as 'The President' and 'Shortman', has lost his father, two brothers and a sister violently and now faces life imprisonment in a US penal facility. He is the adopted son of the late Jamaica Labour Party political enforcer and accused drug dealer, Lester Lloyd Coke, more popularly known as 'Jim Brown'.
Lester Coke rose to prominence following the deaths of his mentor and predecessors, Claudius Massop and Carl 'Byah' Mitchell.
Massop; racehorse trainer Lloyd Fraser, 21; and Canadian resident Trevor Tinson, were cut down by police bullets in February 1979 in what lawmen described as a shoot-out at the corner of Industrial Terrace and Marcus Garvey Drive. Mitchell died from a brain haemorrhage brought on by a narcotic overdose in May 1978.
Mitchell was second in command to Massop; his death opened the way for Lester Coke to step up and fill the breach of political enforcer, who was key in the fight for political spoils during the turbulent era of the 1970s.
The timing of Lester Coke's ascension to the top rung of the Tivoli Gardens garrison was perfect as a year before, the party he fought tooth and nail for - the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) - swept the national elections.
The party was led by a fiery Edward Seaga who was also the member of parliament for West Kingston in which Tivoli Gardens was the central lynch pin.
The JLP was assisted by the US to oust Michael Manley's People's National Party which, at the time, seemed to be in cahoots with America's arch rival and political enemy, Cuba's Fidel Castro.
In return for the US support, the JLP Government embarked on a ganja eradication campaign. Ganja was at the time a major cash crop for some Jamaicans, and the destruction of acres of the seedlings, sometimes with deadly chemicals which destroyed other legal crops, paved the way for the island to become the major trans-shipment port for the deadly drug, cocaine.
The opportunity was ripe for Lester Coke and his cronies who formed themselves into the Shower Posse and exploited the cocaine trade to amass great wealth and opulence. The gang got its name from the JLP election slogan 'Shower', which was a response to the PNP's 'Power' that was coined from Manley's 'Power for the people' slogan in the 1970s.
They took on the name after a speech by Seaga in which he promised that: "Blessings will shower from the sky and money going jingle in your pockets."
Lester Coke, along with his confidante Vivian Blake, were the two leading figures in the Shower Posse. Blake was responsible for the US-based operations of the gang, while Lester Coke held things together on local soil before he made his foray into the US and helped to set up cells of the Shower Posse in New York, Miami, Kansas City, Chicago, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and other cities.
As the Shower Posse extended its reach, it became an increasing annoyance to the US federal authorities because of its blatant disregard for life. Several gruesome murders related to drug deals gone sour were blamed on the Shower Posse and soon the US Government were determined to stamp out the gang.
The largesse garnered from the illegal drug trade brought Lester Coke a new found power, and coupled with his ruthless enforcer style, resulted in a new breed of political thugs who no longer looked to politicians for handouts.
The power that came with the ill-gotten gains soon began to play out in the streets of Kingston. In the early 1980s, Lester Coke was virtually untouchable.
The brutal slaying of a bus driver, who allegedly bad-mouthed Lester Coke in the aftermath of a traffic incident, showed that he wielded considerable power.
The driver had apparently realised too late who he was bad-mouthing and made a mad rush for the Denham Town Police Station where he sought protection from police officers. But the cops could not save him; he was dragged from the police station by Jim Brown and his cronies who shot and stabbed him to death.
Lester Coke was eventually charged for the murder but was acquitted after no witnesses turned up in court.
In 1984, Lester Coke reportedly led a large gang of armed thugs from Tivoli Gardens into the nearby community of Wilton Gardens, popularly known as Rema, and laid siege. In the end, 12 residents were killed in what was dubbed at the time, 'The Rema Killings'.
The attack was reportedly launched because factions in Rema were upset that the community, which was the JLP enclave's first line of defence against PNP gunmen who often launched attacks from nearby Arnett Gardens, was being neglected by the political leader.
Soon after, an arrest warrant was issued for Lester Coke, but he fled the island for the United States. Still, the Shower Posse was coming under increasing pressure from the US Government and in 1987 Lester Coke, forced to flee that country, slipped back into Jamaica and was arrested on the outstanding warrant.
Again, the case against him was weak; the alleged eyewitness changed her statement and was eventually charged with perverting the course of justice.
When it was announced in the Supreme Court that Lester Coke was freed, dozens of supporters gave a prolonged gun salute in front of the court, leaving cops, judges, lawyers and members of the public cowering in fear. The crowd then lifted Coke on their shoulders and carried him triumphantly into Tivoli Gardens.
But Jim Brown's troubles were just beginning. Months later, tragedy would strike in his family. Lester Coke's daughter, known as 'Mumpi', was shot and killed during a gunfight in which her man was also killed. Mumpi was reportedly crouched over his body crying when his killers walked up to her and ended her life.
In 1990, Lester Coke, who, along with Blake and several other leading members of the Shower Posse, was indicted by the US Department of Justice, was again arrested by the Jamaican Government. This time he would have a harder time walking free as the US Government had racked up a series of federal charges against him.
Despite running the legal gauntlet, Lester Coke was ordered extradited.
While languishing in prison awaiting his day in the US courts, his eldest son, Mark 'Jah T' Coke, was shot off his motorbike near the intersection of Maxfield Avenue and Spanish Town Road. Mark Coke was returning from his mother's liquor store when he met his demise. He was reportedly organising a memorial dance for his father's mentor, Claudius Massop.
The incident happened on February 2, 1992, almost two years after Lester Coke was held for extradition.
Weeks later, on the day that his son Mark was being buried, Lester Coke died in a mysterious fire inside his cell at the General Penitentiary, now called the Tower Street Adult Correctional Centre.
Mark Coke's murder triggered a vicious gang war in West Kingston, prompting then Prime Minister Michael Manley to call for dialogue with the JLP and forced a peace march by church and civic leaders through the war-torn communities.
The violence even spread to Florida where several drive-by and club shootings left dozens dead and injured.
The death of Christopher Coke's brother and father created an opening for him to step up and rule the roost in Tivoli Gardens and by extension, the Shower Posse.
On the night of May 4, 2005 Coke's younger brother, also named Christopher but who was popularly called 'Chris Royal' or 'Royal Blend', was also a victim of the gun.
Chris Royal and his crony 'Jello', angered at the killing of Tivoli Gardens elder Donovan Griffiths, also called 'Zion Train', by the security forces, left a wake for Griffiths in Tivoli Gardens with one intention - to avenge his death by taking the life of a policeman.
They succeeded in their bid as both rode up on a black motorcycle to Corporal Hewitt Chandler of the Protective Services as he waited in a marked police car at a stoplight at the intersection of West King's House and Waterloo roads in St Andrew and shot him dead.
However, they did not live much longer as members of the security forces who were early on the scene challenged them both. When the shooting ended, Chris Royal and Jello lay in pools of blood beside the toppled motorbike. Their killing triggered a gun attack on the Cross Road Police Station and the murder of policeman inspector Lascelles Walsh downtown Kingston the following morning.
Now Dudus finds himself in the headlines as the US awaits a decision from the Jamaican Government for his extradition, similar to his father who took that route 17 years before him.
A senior cop who wished to remain unidentified, had a word of advice for 'Dudus'.
"I suggest he makes arrangements to hand himself over to the US authorities and waive his right to an extradition hearing. It would probably be safer for him. He should then tell all he knows and sink some of the high-ranking people who are linked to drugs and arms dealing," the cop said.
Sunday, August 30, 2009
Without presuming anything at all about the guilt or innocence of Mr Christopher 'Dudus' Coke, we sense that the country is in for a rather embarrassing and dangerous ride as far as the US Government's request for his extradition on drug-trafficking and conspiracy charges is concerned.
In fact, said ride appears to have already started, according to the report in the lead story of last Friday's edition of our sister title about Mr Coke, son of the late Mr Lester Lloyd 'Jim Brown' Coke. For the mere mention of the word 'coke', whether in reference to the family or the illegal contraband, triggers recollections of a chapter in our history of which none of us can be proud.
As Friday's story indicated, there's no talking about the Cokes, especially within the context of the US's extradition request, without recalling the horror stories associated with the infamous Shower Posse, which was allegedly run by the late Mr Coke and the recently deported Mr Vivian Blake. The Shower Posse, as Friday's story reminds us, was a multi-million-dollar drug-dealing gang which wreaked havoc in several US cities and was linked to over 1,000 murders.
Mr Blake himself is on record as saying - rather shamelessly in our view - that the gang was run in much the same way as a conventional multi-million-dollar corporation.
Then there are the allegations, also connected with this story, that the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has been probing the activities of senior politicians, police officers and sportsmen in connection with the illegal drug trade. This, coupled with the mysterious circumstances under which Mr Coke burned to death in his jail cell at the General Penitentiary here while awaiting extradition to the United States in February of 1992, makes for ugly reading.
The worst thing about all of this is that there seems to be much more to come. And based on the preceding chapters of this story, we have no reason to hope that any of it will be flattering. For starters, if Mr Coke is indicted and ultimately convicted on charges of drug-trafficking and conspiracy it will raise questions (or should we say even more questions?) about the credibility of our own justice system, which has often been accused of condoning open criminal secrets.
Even if he isn't, the whole ugly past will be resurrected anyway, to the further detriment of the country's image. Given the harsh economic climate which has made the need for investment and other growth stimuli even more critical to our survival, the implications that this newest scandal holds for all of us should be obvious.
For in the same way that our Mr Usain Bolt has, through his magnificent athletic performances, brought us international glory which, with the right skill, can be manipulated to translate into huge economic benefits for the country, others through their nefarious exploits can bring us down. We are aware of what, in our opinion, is a rather misguided school of thought that would condemn the US's request on a variety of grounds which are irrelevant to an enquiry into the guilt or innocence of Mr Coke.
They say he's a 'Don', a good man who has kept many bellies in Tivoli Gardens full over the years. That may be so, but it cannot be the basis on which to resist an extradition request. We must, as a civilised, democratic society, be prepared to stand or fall with the systems of justice to which our Government has subscribed, bellyful or no bellyful.
At the same time, Mr Coke's constitutional right to an extradition hearing in the court cannot be denied by the State.
Friday, January 30, 2009
Former Shower Posse boss Vivian Blake arrived home yesterday with 51 other deportees and after being processed by police at the Kingston Central Police Station said he was tired and wanted, more than anything else, to see his daughter.
"I need some rest, I am tired. I have been travelling for 24 hours and I really need some rest. My first wish is to see my daughter," Blake, 52, told reporters.
|Former Shower Posse boss Vivian Blake (left) talks to journalists outside the Kingston Central Police Station yesterday after being processed by police there. Blake was escorted back to island by United States marshals after spending eight years behind bars in that country. Beside him (at right) is his attorney David Rowe. (Photo: Michael Gordon)|
Blake, who spent eight years in a US prison, arrived with the other deportees on a special flight from Springfield in Louisiana about 12.45 pm at the Norman Manley International Airport and was transported in one of three buses to the police station.
Smiling for most of the time, Blake was quickly whisked through a back door.
More than an hour afterwards, Blake was released into the custody of his attorneys, David Rowe and George Soutar.
Blake refused to say whether or not he feared for his life after he entered into a plea bargain with US authorities and gave crucial information on the workings of the Shower Posse in order to avoid a 28-year sentence.
After speaking to reporters, Blake was quickly hustled into a white Toyota Prado sports utility vehicle which sped off on East Queen Street to wild cheers from a group of people who had gathered outside the gates of the police station.
"Big up Vivian, mi boss," a woman shouted as she pranced gleefully.
A police source yesterday said Blake had told officers that he planned to reside in the West Kingston enclave of Tivoli Gardens, the breeding ground of the Shower Posse. The source said there was no bad blood between Blake and present leaders of the community and they were not expecting any clashes over turf.
"They have accepted him and he said that is where he is planning to live," the cop said.
Blake, who owned the Cactus Nightclub in Portmore, St Catherine, reportedly told police officers that he had no beef with the owners of two nightclubs in New Kingston.
"He said he sold the club to them and they owe him nothing," a cop said.
Earlier, one of his attorneys told reporters that Blake had turned over a new leaf and wanted to be remembered as a member of the literary community as he would be embarking on a career involving scripting plays and writing novels.
Blake was fingered as the mastermind behind the ruthless Shower Posse, which had established drug bases in more than 20 US cities, Canada and the United Kingdom and was reportedly responsible for more than 1,400 murders.
In December 1988, Blake slipped out of the United States on a cruise ship and entered Jamaica in Ocho Rios, St Ann. He managed to remain free for five years before he was arrested on an extradition warrant in 1998. He spent five years fighting extradition to the US before he was eventually handed over to US authorities.
Yesterday, a source close to Blake alleged that he was suffering from kidney failure and had to be undergoing regular dialysis treatment.
|Vivian Blake being released from prison|
Saturday, December 20, 2008
Infamous Shower Posse founder Vivian Blake is set to be released from prison in the United States and deported to Jamaica early next year.
Blake's pending release was announced on the BET programme, American Gangster, which aired on Thursday night.
The programme looked at the rise and fall of the Shower Posse - a criminal organisation which has its roots in Tivoli Gardens and which established bases in several cities in the US, Canada and Britain.
Blake was sentenced to 28 years in 2000 after he pleaded guilty to racketeering and criminal conspiracy. He never faced a jury after inking a plea bargain deal which resulted in the time he served while in Jamaica being used as part of his sentence.
Blake spent five years fighting extradition to the US after the American Government accused him of ordering dozens of murders, drug trafficking and other serious crimes.
The Shower Posse reigned terror on the streets of the US and its members are reported to have murdered over 1,400 persons in the United States.
The group has been accused of funnelling huge amounts of cocaine into the United States and was said to use its profits to smuggle guns and ammunition back to Jamaica.
Blake is quoted on the programme as saying "I ran it like a CEO of a Fortune 500 company. The only difference is that instead of litigating in a court of law, we held court in the streets."
The gang was said to have major drug operations in New York, Miami, Philadelphia, New Jersey, Los Angeles, Alaska, Washington D C, Dallas, Houston, Kansas City, Montreal, Toronto and London.
In October 1988, Blake managed to elude a nationwide dragnet which saw more than 100 posse members being held during Operation Dragnet, which was set up to nab members of the notorious gang.
He left the shores of the United States on December 3, 1988 on a cruise ship and entered Jamaica at Ocho Rios in St Ann. He remained free for 10 years and was the owner of a car, motorcycle and jet ski rental company and a once popular night club in St Catherine.
But while Blake was enjoying his freedom, some of his cronies who were slapped with long sentences, began to turn against him. Chief among them was Charles 'Little Nut' Miller, a native of St Kitts who said many of the murders were committed on Blake's orders.
Miller was eventually sentenced to life without parole after slipping out of witness protection and leading a ruthless drug-running operation in his home country.
Also turning on Blake was Shower Posse enforcer, Kirk Bruce, who admitted to committing more than 100 murders on US soil and is now serving a life sentence.
Sunday, January 27, 2008
This series of articles is not intended to lionise or glorify the acts of criminals but to put a historical perspective on criminality in Jamaica, with the hope of shedding light on why the country is now teetering on the edge of lawlessness. Of significant note, as well, is the fact that the subjects of these stories die violently and very young.
AFTER the demise of Tivoli Gardens enforcer Claudius Massop, who died in a hail of police bullets, and his chief honcho, Carl 'Byah' Mitchell, who succumbed to a drug overdose, an opening was created for Lester Lloyd Coke, popularly known as 'Jim Brown'. He stepped in to fill the breach left by the two men just before the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) landslide victory at the polls in 1980.
Although he was known by the name 'Jim Brown', Coke's original moniker was 'Ba Bye', and those who knew him say he was a tough, no-nonsense type of man, who fought tooth and nail for his party's honour.
Like Massop, Coke was nabbed by agents of the state, thrown behind bars and slapped with a murder charge. After a few months in jail, Coke was freed after the main witness to the murder was slain.
It was after his release from jail that Coke shed the moniker 'Ba Bye' and took upon himself the nickname 'Jim Brown', after the hall of fame American football player.
It is said that Coke honed his skills as a steel-nerved and feared enforcer during the politically turbulent 1970s, when the rules of engagement in politically volatile areas like the neighbouring constituencies of Western Kingston and South St Andrew demanded that the enemy be pushed back.
|Brown. his original moniker was Ba Bye|
This scenario provided the perfect breeding ground for Coke and others of his ilk to evolve. Coke was responsible for keeping his political rivals, who would wish to attack his community and inflict violence upon its citizens, on the back foot.
Coke, like many before him, was the product of a divisive political system charted by early politicians.
But unlike Massop and Mitchell, Coke was wily enough to wean himself off political largesse and, perhaps, can be described as the first political enforcer to free himself from the economic shackles foisted on him and others of the same ilk by political power brokers.
After the JLP victory in 1980, Jamaica, which was one of the major suppliers of marijuana to the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom, evolved into a major transshipment port for the deadly drug, cocaine. The JLP had chosen to join the US side in the Cold War, and at that government's behest, embarked upon a major ganja eradication campaign.
The anti-marijuana initiative caused an economic fallout among the growers and traders of the illegal crop and forced drug traffickers to seek alternative means to make their money.
Cocaine commands a much higher market price than ganja and proved the perfect foil for drug traders who diverted their skills to satisfying an overwhelming demand for the drug, especially in the United States.
It was during this time that Coke, along with his confidante, Vivian Blake, developed a massive drug-running empire, with bases in Florida, New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Chicago and other parts of the US.
United States federal authorities would be jolted by the brutal dispensation and modus operandi of the Jamaican gangsters, among them the Spanglers Posse - bitter enemies of the Shower Posse - whose original members hailed from Matthews Lane and other nearby areas affiliated to the People's National Party.
The Shower Posse, so called because of their penchant for spraying their enemies with bullets, were so feared by their rivals abroad that the US Government was forced to launch a massive counter offensive aimed at destabilising the gang.
The Spanglers Posse were no less brutal, and the political violence which had been bred since the 1940s played itself out in the streets of North America. That gang was also a target of police investigations.
While Blake was the brain behind the empire, Coke provided the brawn and, in the process, gained enough wealth to ignore the feed in the political trough which was dispensed in too little amounts by political representatives.
But his wealth did not mean that he would lapse in his political duties.
In 1984, Coke reportedly led a team of men from his stronghold of Tivoli Gardens into Wilton Gardens, also known as Rema, then a JLP-aligned community run by orders from the bosses in 'Garden' (another name for Tivoli).
For years Rema was regarded as a sort of bastard cousin of the more developed and powerful Tivoli Gardens. But Rema had itself spawned fierce street warriors who were hardened in the art of criminal warfare by their daily experiences living in an area which was the first line of defence against PNP thugs who launched repeated attacks from Arnett Gardens.
A disagreement between persons from Tivoli Gardens and Rema prompted Coke and his gang's foray into Rema. When the gang left, seven men lay dead.
Soon after, police arrested Coke and charged him with seven counts of murder. But Coke was again freed after no one came forward to testify against him.
On the day of his release, heavily-armed men celebrated by firing a barrage of gunshots in the air directly in front of the Supreme Court, sending police officers, court staff and members of the bar scampering for cover and cowering in fear.
Coke was held high by the crowd and carried back to his fortress in Tivoli Gardens.
Soon after, then prime minister and member of parliament for West Kingston Edward Seaga, along with other JLP officials, visited Rema and appealed to the residents to 'let bygones be bygones'.
With his legal troubles in Jamaica behind him and his political connections rock solid, Coke now had time to continue his illegal quest at wealth creation.
In 1986, federal authorities in the United States reported that the Shower Posse had spread their wings to over a dozen US cities and were raking in a substantial portion of the 25 per cent of the billion dollar illegal drug trade that Jamaican gangs earned.
But as the Shower Posse grew in stature, so did the federal investigation into their activities, and in November 1988, 53 Shower Posse members were arrested in New Jersey on drug distribution charges.
A month before, a federal grand jury indicted 34 members of the Shower Posse, including, Coke, Blake and Blake's two half-brothers, Errol Hussing and Tony Bruce.
Coke managed to remain a free man until the beginning of the 1990s when international police investigations began closing in on the Shower Posse.
Richard 'Storitella' Morrison, a leading posse member, was 'captured' in Jamaica by US authorities and illegally whisked abroad to stand trial.
In February 1991, Coke was arrested by local police and locked up at the General Penitentiary, now called the Tower Street Adult Correctional Facility, after the US Government requested that he be extradited to that country to answer to murder and drug trafficking charges.
Coke's bid to acquire a special leave to appeal was rejected by the United Kingdom Privy Council and after a year of legal wrangling the writing was on the wall.
While Coke languished in prison, his son, Mark Coke, also known as 'Jah T', was shot dead as he rode a motorcycle along Maxfield Avenue on February 2, 1992.
Jah T was in the process of preparing for a memorial dance in honour of Claudius Massop when he was killed.
The killing of Coke's son sparked a new round of political bloodletting and, in the weeks that followed, shootings occurred in Hannah Town, Arnett Gardens, Denham Town, Rose Lane and Matthews Lane, prompting then prime minister Michael Manley to call for a meeting with Seaga. The violence also sparked a march by a group of churches through the affected communities.
But the violence would also spread abroad.
The Florida-based website, www.emergency.com, posted this report in August, 1992.
Miami, FL - A drug gang war that started in Kingston, Jamaica, early in 1992 may have recently spilled over into the streets and bars of Miami. Reportedly, an early Saturday morning nightclub shooting of twenty-two (22) people involved members of the Jamaican "Shower Posse". Gang Crimes officers of the Broward County Sheriff's Office say that the nightclub killings may have been retribution for the February killing of Mark Coke, a leader of the Jamaican "Shower Posse" drug gang. The "Shower Posse" supposedly gets its name from the "shower" of lead it shoots at rival gangs.
An agent of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms says that Saturday's shootings "had all the earmarks" of a Jamaican "Posse" hit. Special Agent Joe Vince was quoted by the United Press International as saying, "the posses are the most vicious organised crime group in the United States today". Capt Al Lambeti of the Broward County Sheriff's Office said that the shooting was a "...perfect textbook example of how the posse does business".
The younger Coke's murder was rumoured to stem from a dispute between Shower Posse members and members of the Black Roses Crew, which was then led by William 'Willie Haggart' Moore, who would eventually be killed, at a weekly dance called 'Beachline' held at the Hellshire Beach in St Catherine.
Popular dancer, Gerald 'Bogle' Levy, was reportedly doused with alcohol during the dispute which was diffused by police officers who were on the scene.
Three weeks later, the very day his son was buried, Coke was burnt to death in a mysterious fire inside his cell.
Unconfirmed reports suggest that the notorious gangster committed suicide because he realised that he would be handed over to the US authorities, but this claim has been refuted by others who say his death was as a result of a botched escape attempt. Still others say Coke was murdered to keep him from spilling the beans to the Americans.
Just wanted to say carry on the good work of informing Jamaicans of our past and how it shapes our present and future.... I missed a few of your articles and the archive on the Observer website does not allow access to same.
By any chance do you have a link to a blog with all the articles... if not.. consider doing one.
I myself left Jamaica in 1974, and before I left I would hear mention of some of these names. I knew they were thugs but that was the extent of it. Some of the names I never heard of until I came to the United States and met people from some of those communities and the media. They never got into details like you did in your articles. As a matter of fact, I was at a house party in the 70s and there was a woman there with one of these notorious men's name tattooed on her arm.
These articles that you write are very informative, especially to those of us like myself who were ignorant to what was really going on in Jamaica in that time period. It's a kind of history that people from Jamaica and their offspring should know about, as strange as it might sound. I think you should compile these article in a book and publish it. I just wish that there were pictures to go with these names. I wanted to see what they looked like. What about their relatives, I wonder what was their reaction? These young thugs should learn from those that preceded them. When you live by the gun you also die by the gun.
I have learned a lot from your articles. all I have to say is, my brother, please continue publishing these articles. I look forward to reading the Observer on line on a Sunday. Thanks for the information.
I am a Jamaican living in Toronto and I wanted you to know that I am impressed with your series. I think you are doing a great work by researching the roots of our garrisons in Jamaica. You are not afraid of exposing the faults of both political parties for being involved in the gang development and you do a great job of acknowledging the place these gangsters in our society, both as enforcers and protectors.
However, if there is one aspect of your article that I would like to critique would be the structure and flow of the story. In reading your article it seemed a hodge podge of facts were put together, but I did not see a chronological order nor flow of events from paragraph to paragraph. To me it seemed you ran with an idea, finished it and realised there was another idea to input so you just threw it in the next paragraph. For your next article I would hope you put together a better flow, but thanks for the education. It is an important topic to discuss.