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Alleged Jamaican drug kingpin pleads not guilty

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Alleged drug lord to face charges
  • NEW: Christopher "Dudus" Coke was wearing woman's wig when captured
  • Coke was extradited Thursday from Jamaica
  • Indictment says Coke was leader of the "Shower Posse"
  • He faces narcotics and weapons trafficking charges

New York (CNN) -- Alleged drug kingpin Christopher "Dudus" Coke, who was extradited to the United States from Jamaica, pleaded not guilty to drug and weapons charges in a New York courtroom Friday.

He entered a full courtroom at 2:03 p.m. and acknowledged his few family members present with a nod. The judge greeted him with "Good afternoon, Mr. Coke," to which the seemingly calm Coke didn't respond. After entering his plea, Coke stood and answered "yes sir" to every question regarding understanding his indictments.

The court-assigned attorney told the judge he has not been permanently assigned to case because the Coke family hired attorneys Frank Doddato and Steven Rosen. Doddato is the lead attorney.

Coke was extradited Thursday, two days after he was taken into custody in Jamaica and several hours after he had waived his right to an extradition hearing there. Coke arrived at White Plains-Westchester County Airport outside New York City around 7 p.m.

Armed Drug Enforcement Administration agents and U.S. marshals escorted him to a waiting SUV. Coke was dressed in a blue shirt and black pants with his hands cuffed behind his back. He appeared subdued, a smirk on his face.

"I love the people of Jamaica," he said in response to a question from a Jamaican reporter.

Video: What if we leagalized all drugs?

Coke, 40, said in a statement that he decided to waive his right to an extradition hearing of his own free will, and did so "even though I am of the belief that my case would have been successfully argued in the courts of Jamaica."

According to a superseding indictment filed in Manhattan federal court, Coke has led a criminal organization known as the "Shower Posse" since the early 1990s, with members in the United States, Jamaica and other countries.

"At Coke's direction and under his protection, members of his criminal organization sold marijuana and crack cocaine in the New York area and elsewhere, and sent the narcotics proceeds back to Coke and his co-conspirators," the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York said in a news release.

"Coke and his co-conspirators also armed their organization with illegally trafficked firearms," the release said.

Coke is charged with conspiracy to distribute cocaine and marijuana and conspiracy to illegally traffic in firearms. If convicted on the narcotics charge, he would face a maximum sentence of life in prison and a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison, as well as a fine of up to $4 million.

He would face a maximum sentence of five years in prison on the firearms trafficking charge and a fine of up to $250,000.

Coke was arrested on Tuesday when Jamaican police recognized him at a checkpoint. He was wearing a woman's wig when he was caught, a federal law enforcement source told CNN.

Last month's failed attempt to arrest Coke sparked four days of gun battles between security forces and his supporters in Kingston that left 76 people dead.

Coke, who is also known as "President," "Shortman" and "General," said he was "deeply upset and saddened by the unnecessary loss of lives" and said the deaths "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 violence erupted, he said Thursday.

CNN's Mark Norman, Eden Pontz and Eliott McLaughlin contributed to this report.