On Thursday Judge Lennox Campbell sentenced dancehall reggae star Vybz Kartel and three other men to life in prison for the 2011 murder of an associate.
While police in riot gear watched over barricaded streets outside the court in downtown Kingston, the judge ruled that Kartel must serve 35 years behind bars before he can be eligible for parole.
Last month, after three years in custody and what was reportedly the longest trial in Jamaican circuit court history, dancehall artist Kartel was convicted of the 2011 murder of Clive ‘Lizard’ Williams.
Others found guilty of the murder were Shawn Campbell (aka Shawn Storm), Kahira Jones, and Andre St. John, all of whom received life sentences.
According to Billboard, Kartel’s lawyers plan to appeal the conviction, which will take 6-12 months. They maintain that evidence was fabricated and manipulated—including text messages on Kartel’s phone referring to Williams’ remains as “mincemeat” (his body was never found), and detailing plans to flee. The murder allegedly took place at Kartel’s home during a dispute over missing firearms.
Authorities said the case had posed numerous security challenges. Prosecution witnesses and relatives of the victim needed state protection due to numerous threats. Officers were also threatened, including Detective Sgt. Patrick Linton, whose home was attacked with a fire bomb after he testified against Kartel.
Police officials also said intelligence indicated people were paid to gather outside the court to show support for Kartel and “create disorder during the closing stages of the trial.”
Kartel is a major star in the dancehall genre and is known for his prolific output and innovative, but often violent, X-rated lyrics. Over the years, he collaborated with international artists including Jay-Z, Rihanna and Busta Rhymes. Rhymes traveled to Jamaica to attend the last day of Kartel’s trial as a show of support.
Although he has been jailed since 2011, Kartel recorded numerous new songs from his cell using a smartphone and co-wrote a book about himself titled “The Voice of the Jamaica Ghetto.” He’s long been popular among young Jamaicans, especially those in blighted slums.
As his popularity grew, he increasingly got in trouble with the law. Last year, another murder case against Kartel collapsed after prosecutors failed to produce enough evidence to support allegations that he and two others killed businessman Barrington “Bossy” Burton in 2011.