An undocumented immigrant who helped the US Government bring down one of Jamaica’s most notorious drug kingpins is fighting deportation, which he says is tantamount to a death sentence, the New York Daily News has reported.
According to the newspaper’s report published on Saturday, the man, identified in court papers only as Sean B, was a cooperating witness in the case against Christopher “Dudus” Coke beginning in 2009, which made him a marked man. He was known in the gang as “Cowboy”.
“If I return to Jamaica, I am dead as soon as I get off the plane. I testified against one of the most powerful men in Jamaica,” the New York Daily News reports Sean B as saying in a sworn statement. “Being a snitch in Jamaica is one of the worst things you can do and I am branded as one for the rest of my life. I will be killed in Jamaica if I return.”
According to the Daily News, Sean B, once served as a general in Coke’s Shower Posse.
The newspaper reports that New Jersey District Judge Kevin McNulty, in a written ruling last Monday, said: “Since (Sean’s) testimony, his sister’s house was burned down, the house of his children’s mother was bombed, six of his cousins have been murdered, and his father was forced to flee the country.”
The life-or-death stakes were made clear during Sean’s recent unwanted three-day return to Jamaica courtesy of the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the Daily news story said, explaining that on May 30 immigration agents put him on a private plane bound for Kingston before the US Government received a restraining order signed by McNulty blocking the deportation.
“What happened when he got removed was cinematic in terms of how insane it was,” the Daily News quotes Sean’s attorney Gregory Copeland. His client tried to lay low with a family friend, a sister and others. But during a walk outside, people were waiting for him with a machete and sawed-off shotgun, Copeland said. Sean jumped over fences, hopped in a cab and frantically called his legal team back in the US from a payphone, the newspaper report stated.
Three days later, he was back in ICE custody, thanks to Judge McNulty, who ordered he be returned to America. Federal agents hid him in a hotel in Jamaica until he could be put on a plane, the story reports his other attorney Craig Relles as saying.
Sean has been held in ICE jail ever since.
“I find it quite likely that a person in that position in Jamaica — in hiding, and under a threat of death — could not effectively litigate an immigration appeal,” McNulty wrote. “Not to put too fine a point on it, the death threats, if carried out, would moot and defeat the review process.”
According to the Daily News, Sean had numerous run-ins with US authorities before becoming a cooperating witness, including two deportations for illegal entry. After trying to get into the US a third time in 2009, he pleaded guilty to drug trafficking charges and began working with the Government.
The newspaper reports John Zach, a lawyer who was one of the federal prosecutors on the Coke case, as saying that Sean “was a critical witness in the Coke investigation. He testified at great personal risk to himself and offered first-hand insight into Coke’s organisation and how it operated in Jamaica and the United States.”
A manhunt for Coke in 2010 resulted in an “armed insurgency” in Jamaica that left 70 dead, McNulty noted. Coke was sentenced to 23 years in prison in 2012.
The Daily News report stated that Sean was allowed to work in the US. Why he ended up on ICE’s radar in January 2019 is unclear. An agency spokeswoman declined to comment on the case but noted Sean’s numerous criminal convictions.
According to the newspaper, Sean has a bail hearing in immigration court this week.
“He can’t go back to Kingston. He’s a dead man,” the Daily News quotes Relles.