Yet another blow has been dealt to Jamaica’s dancehall community, as yet another prominent artist has been locked up for the rest of his life. Most are familiar with the case of dancehall legend Vybz Kartel, who was sentenced to life in prison, in 2014, for the 2011 murder of Clive “Lizard” Williams (he will be eligible for parole after serving 35 years). Yesterday, veteran dancehall DJ, Ninjaman (government name Desmond John Ballentine) received a life sentence for the 2009 murder of 20-year-old Ricardo Johnson. He also received a concurrent 20-year sentence for the shooting. The DJ gave a thumbs up as the sentence was read.
Sentenced to life along with Ninjaman were his son, Jahneil, and Dennis Clayton. They were all found guilty on November 20. The trio’s sentencing was scheduled for Friday, but due to the fact that Clayton’s attorney was late to court, High Court judge, Justice Martin Gayle, postponed it until yesterday.
The fateful day that got Ninjaman and the others locked up was March 16, 2009. Police reports indicate that the three entered a yard on Mall Road in Olympic Gardens, in Kingston, with several other men. The reports say that they shot numerous times at a man who fled, but Johnson was fatally struck with bullets.
When arrested, Ninjaman was sent to Kingston’s Horizon Adult Remand Centre, where he spent three years. In 2012, he was granted bail in the sum of $2 million, but was returned to custody on October 17, after Gayle revoked the bail and ordered that the trial start immediately.
The Jamaica Observer sums up Ninjaman’s dancehall career:
A native of St Mary, Ninjaman rose to prominence in the 1980s. His first hit song was, Cover Me, featuring Tinga Stewart.
With a career spanning more than 30 years, Ninjaman faced several run-ins with the law. In recent years, however, he opted to project a positive image through social media and more community involvement.
He also experienced a career resurgence after signing with the Josef Bogdanovich-owned Downsound Records label for two years.
Ninjaman will eligible for parole in 25 years. His co-defendants will be up for parole in 15. According to Ninjaman’s attorney, Queen’s Counsel Valerie Neita-Robertson, he will be appealing the conviction.