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UPDATE: Buju gets 10 years

BY KARYL WALKER Online news editor walkerk@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, June 23, 2011

REGGAE artiste Buju Banton was today sentenced to 10 years by United States magistrate Jim Moody in the Sam M Gibbons US Court in Tampa Florida. He will be incarcerated at the FCI prison facility in Miami.

The artiste – real name Mark Myrie – was found guilty in February of conspiring to negotiate a drug deal in a police controlled warehouse in Florida.

The charge of possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug offense was dropped however.

The artiste was slapped with the heavy sentence despite pleas for leniency by his attorney, his children, movie star Danny Glover and other character witnesses.

Banton, whose real name is Mark Anthony Myrie, seemed resigned to accept his fate and calmy accepted the verdict.

His attorney David Oscar Markus has signalled his intent to appeal Banton's guilty verdict and indicated that he would move with alacrity to secure the artiste's release.

The sentence was handed down in front of a packed courthouse which included members of the artiste's family, his close friend Wayne Wonder, his manager Traci McGregor and reporters.

Many persons, including artistes and Banton's close friends Gramps Morgan and Delly Ranks who came to hear the verdict were turned back after court officials indicated that the courtroom was packed and Moody had already been seated at minutes to 9:00 am.

The sentencing hearing lasted just over an hour and many of Myrie's supporters and family members cried openly.

The artiste will serve his time at the penal facility in the state of Florida.

Myrie underwent two trials after the first trial ended in a mistrial in 2010. He was however found guilty of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute five or more kilogrammes of cocaine, using the wires to facilitate a drug offense and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking offence.

Banton's two co-conspirators, Ian Thomas and James Mack both plead guilty after they were held in a sting operation attempting to purchase cocaine from federal agents in a police controlled warehouse in Tampa.

The US government built their case around wiretap and video evidence which caught Banton tasting cocaine and making several statements of the purchasee and sale of large amounts of contraband.