Troubles and trials of a Ninja

BY SADE GARDNER
Observer writer

Friday, December 15, 2017

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Veteran dancehall deejay Ninjaman will face sentencing today in the Home Circuit Court in downtown Kingston for the 2009 murder of Ricardo “Ricky Trooper” Johnson.

The 51-year-old rose to prominence in the late 1980s and has since become a household name in the dancehall music industry. Hailed as a clash king and lyrics master, the father of 29 children has also seen some dark days in his career. Splash takes a look at the deejay's career, run-ins with the law and subsequent murder conviction.

• 1966: Desmond Ballentine was born on January 20 in Annotto Bay in St Mary.

• 1970s: He moves to Kingston at 11 years old and later goes on to deejay under the stage name Double Ugly for the Black Culture sound system.

• 1980s: He becomes a selector for the Kilimanjaro sound system under the moniker Uglyman.

• 1986: Kicks off professional music career releasing his first single Protection with singer Courtney Melody.

• 1988: Deejay releases Cover Me, his first hit single which features Tinga Stewart.

• 1990s: Ninjaman becomes widely known for his controversial 'rude boy' lyrics which delineate images of gun culture and violence. He releases songs such as Murder Dem, My Weapon and Permit to Bury.

– His popularity grows among audiences with his theatrical freestyles, costumes and engaging performances. Ninjaman becomes a formidable lyrical opponent on the clash stage.

– Dubbed as the Sting Champion after winning an onstage clash with dancehall superstar Shabba Ranks.

• 1997: He changes his moniker to Brother Desmond after being baptised and begins performing reggae gospel songs. He also attempts to fight his well-publicised addiction to cocaine.

• 1999: Earns a role in the local action movie Third World Cop. Later spends one year behind bars for unlawful possession of firearm.

• 2002: Ninjaman hands over a Glock to Reneto Adams, Senior Superintendent of Police, at the time on the Sting stage in front of thousands of patrons on December 26.

• 2003: Ninjaman and now incarcerated deejay Vybz Kartel fight at Sting. The December 26 show comes to a premature end.

– The artistes meet with police and Sting promoters at the Hilton Kingston Hotel days after the incident. The entertainers are warned to restrain their followers from further violence. They are later arrested.

• 2004: In January, Ninjaman is charged with disorderly conduct and assault following the Sting fight. He appears before the Spanish Town Resident Magistrates Court and is released on a $15,000 bail.

• 2008: Ballentine establishes Jamaica All for Peace One Umbrella Movement Ltd in April to campaign for peace and assist the less fortunate in society.

• 2009: 20-year-old Ricardo “Ricky Trooper” Johnson is murdered on March 16. According to prosecutors, Ninjaman and his son Jahneil (among others) entered a yard on Mall Road in Olympic Gardens and fired shots at a man who fled the premises. Johnson, who was in the yard, was fatally shot.

— Ninjaman and his son are arrested and charged with murder, conspiracy to murder, shooting with intent and illegal possession of a firearm. The deejay spends three years behind bars at the Horizon Correctional Centre.

• 2012: Ballentine is granted bail in the sum of $2 million on March 23.

• 2013: Signs two-year record deal with Josef Bogdanovich of Downsound Records.

• 2014-2015: Enjoys resurgence of music career with tracks like Jamaica Town and Ninja Mi Ninja produced by the label.

• 2017:

- January 16: Ninjaman is invited by the National Security Ministry to speak to members of the police force on ways to combat crime

- June: Ninjaman's foundation receives certification.

- October 17: He is taken into custody after High Court Judge, Justice Martin Gayle, revokes his bail and orders that the trial commence immediately. He is being represented by Queens Counsel Valerie Neita Robertson. The case had seen 17 trial dates and 23 mentions.

- October 29: Man who fled from the yard of the night of the shooting gives testimony and says Ninjaman fired at him twice. He is placed under Witness Protection Programme.

- November 3: Ninjaman is taken to an undisclosed medical facility hospital after complaining of chest pains and difficulty in breathing while in court. The entertainer's lawyer receives his permission to continue in his absence. The case is transferred to a special court that handles cases on the books for more than five years.

- Ninjaman is released from the hospital and continues trial.

- November 10: Artiste gives first testimony since trial and denies involvement in the allegations.

- November 20: A 7-member jury finds him guilty of the 2009 murder of Ricardo “Ricky Trooper” Johnson.

- December 15: The deejay will appear at the Home Circuit Court to face sentencing.

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