NEW YORK (Reuters) - A judge on Friday delayed the sentencing of Jamaican drug lord Christopher "Dudus" Coke for months by requiring federal prosecutors to prove the gang leader's life of violence extended far beyond his admitted crimes.
Coke had been set to be sentenced in Manhattan federal court, but the judge overseeing the case instead ordered hearings to determine whether the U.S. government had evidence for the additional crimes.
Coke pleaded guilty in August 2011 to drug trafficking and assault charges, and agreed with prosecutors not to seek a prison term of less than 21 years and 8 months.
Now his lawyers are contesting the government's descriptions of Coke's violent personality and lifetime of crime.
They decried "unsolicited letters of various Jamaican nationals who wrote to the court with allegations of gang rape, domestic slavery, and torture of women by hot irons and being fed to crocodiles," in a letter to judge Robert Patterson this week requesting the hearings.
"It is difficult to imagine how even the most temperate of judges would not be severely inflamed against the defendant," the lawyers said.
Prosecutors had asked the judge to impose the maximum 23-year sentence and said their descriptions of Coke's crimes were appropriate given his guilty plea.
The hearings are scheduled to begin May 22.
Coke was arrested in Jamaica in June 2010 and later extradited to the United States.
He was so powerful the Jamaican government declared a state of emergency to capture him and more than 500 police officers waged an armed assault on the barricaded Kingston neighborhood of Tivoli Gardens that Coke controlled.
Seventy-three people were killed in the fighting before Coke was seized.
(Reporting By Basil Katz; Editing by Daniel Trotta and Xavier Briand)