Livity charges that Dudus and other family members are targeted because of their surname
Sadeke Brooks, Staff Reporter
Leighton 'Livity' Coke is convinced that his brother Christopher 'Dudus' Coke is now languishing in a United States (US) prison only because of the stigma attached to the family's name.
According to Livity, his brother was convicted in the minds of many Jamaicans long before he pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges in the US last year.
"It comes from the foundation of the stigma of the family, so that stigma alone makes it hard to prove if you are innocent or guilty," Livity told The Sunday Gleaner in an exclusive interview.
"The stigma alone won't give you the chance to prove the real person that you are," added Livity.
He also blames the stigma associated with the Coke name for his brother's decision to opt to be extradited to the US rather than fighting the extradition request in the local courts.
"Every man must decide what they think is best. But because of the stigma that exists he decided to take that route.
"His dad (Lester Lloyd 'Jim Brown' Coke) died while being incarcerated here. No one would like to repeat that," said Livity.
He argued that despite the public perception and the media image painted of Dudus, his brother is a good man.
"For me, I would have him as a loving, God-fearing person," said Livity as he sat calmly on a concrete outdoor chair.
Dudus was sentenced to 23 years in prison after pleading guilty to drugs and firearm trafficking charges.
The judge also ordered the forfeiture of Coke's assets in the sum of US$1.5 million.
Livity says since the sentencing he has not been in contact with his brother and he is displeased with the situation facing the man friends and family affectionately refer to as Mikey.
"No one could be happy about hearing of someone's conviction. I wasn't expecting that," said Livity.
"Our prayers are always out for him. My prayer is always there for him, and just by my experience for the two years (that I spent in custody), that leaves me to understand what he will be going through for that period of time."
Livity spent two years in custody after he was arrested on charges of illegal possession of a firearm and shooting with intent following the 2010 incursion into Tivoli Gardens by the security forces.
He was cleared of the charges in March but the time in custody remains at the forefront of his mind.
"It was just like hell. It was a very devastating moment in my life. It was a form of torturing. It left me traumatised. It was life-threatening," said Livity, who has scars to show for what he claims was a merciless beating administered by soldiers while he was in custody.
He said while in custody he was "just another man".
"You just have to be yourself and just stay focused at all times and stay positive as usual." said the tall, soft-spoken Livity.
He was again detained by the police less than one month after he was cleared by the court, this time for questioning in relation to murder.
According to Livity, that is all part and parcel of carrying the name Coke.
"It's not off me, it's just the stigma of the Coke family. The media contributes to the title of the strongman. When you go out there to do business, it creates a problem. It damages your character.
"I don't have a problem with the police doing their job, but when you use stigma to determine how you do your job, we have a problem with that."
Moving forward, Livity said he is trying to remain positive and does not want to be labelled as the new leader of Tivoli Gardens.
"Where it concerns the media, the stigma that they have created around us, that is why we take this opportunity now to disassociate my name with such titles as Tivoli Gardens don or strongman."
He argued that because he has been labelled a don, plus the legal woes surrounding Dudus and himself, his businesses have suffered because persons have been shying away from doing business with the Coke family.
For now the music producer and business operator is focusing on building back his life.
"Positive experiences since being released are knowing to myself that I am a free person and being around my family and being around my baby boy who was born while I was incarcerated."