'Buju was pressured'

BY BRIAN BONITTO Associate Editor -- Auto and Entertainment bonittob@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

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ROSEMARY Duncan, coordinator of the three-member Buju Banton Defense Support Committee, says the incarcerated reggae artiste was "pressured into an agreement" to drop any further appeals.


Buju Banton (given name Mark Myrie) is currently serving a mandatory 10-year sentence in a Georgia correctional facility on cocaine charges.


Last Thursday, the reggae singer said he would be halting any further appeals, while the US Attorney Office announced it would be dismissing firearms charge against the singer.


"The court had thrown out the gun charge twice. However, the prosecution still had the option of pursuing a new trial ... and if convicted, he would get an additional five years," the St Lucian-born, US-based Duncan told the Jamaica Observer.


Buju Banton -- who was arrested in 2009 -- was convicted in February 2011. He is scheduled to be deported to Jamaica in 2019.


The support committee coordinator said the decision to discontinue the appeals came from the artiste himself.


"It was his own decision, based on his own analysis. He realised that every time there is hope, the court would say something else. He said he's done 5 1/2 years and could do 3 1/2 years more. It had nothing [to do] with legal cost, as he always paid his lawyers," she explained.


The entertainer's legal team comprises Harvard professor Charles Olgetree and Max Stern.


In January, Olgetree told the Observer he would be pulling out all the stops to free his client.


"We will be fighting for Buju Banton's freedom. We will present our arguments for a reversal of his conviction to the entire court in an en banc hearing later this spring," he said.


Duncan, who said the support group was formed in 2011 to champion Buju Banton's cause, said despite the decision, he remains positive.


"I spoke with him today. He's the same person, in terms of spirit. He's writing great music for his fans," she said.


Days after his 2011 conviction, Buju Banton won a Grammy Award for his album Before Dawn. His other albums include 'Til Shiloh (1995), Inna Heights (1997) and Unchained Spirit (2000).


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