News

Buju’s bad gamble - J’can entertainer loses appeal

J’can entertainer now facing five years for gun charge; Lawyer vows to keep fighting

BY PAUL HENRY Crime/Court Desk co-ordinator ?henryp@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, August 08, 2012    

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IMPRISONED Jamaican reggae artiste Buju Banton has found himself in a more troubling spot than he was before appealing his drug conviction and 10-year sentence earlier this year.

Based on a ruling yesterday in a Tampa, Florida court, the Jamaican artiste now faces an additional five years in prison, which could push his total prison sentence to 15 years.

But his attorney, David Oscar Markus, told the Jamaica Observer that he would be appealing this latest conviction.

“I won’t stop fighting for my friend and brother,” Markus said.

Buju, whose real name is Mark Myrie, was convicted in February last year in the Sam M Gibbons Federal Court in Tampa on conspiracy to traffic drugs and gun charges.

During a sentencing hearing in June last year, Federal Judge James Moody threw out the gun conviction, stating that Buju had never met or spoke with James Mack, a coconspirator who drove to Florida from Georgia with a gun in his car to buy five kilogrammes of cocaine from a ‘confidential informant’. Mack and Ian Thomas, another co-conspirator, pleaded guilty to drug charges and were sentenced to five years.

Buju later filed an appeal and also applied to the appellate court for a new trial. However, the federal appeals court dismissed the appeal and in the process reinstated the artiste’s gun conviction. The court also recommend that the application for a new trial be made in the lower court.

Yesterday, Moody denied Buju’s application for a new trial, opening the door for the artiste to be sentenced on the reinstated gun conviction. A sentencing date has not been set.

Moody, in refusing the application for a new trial, said he agreed that the gun conviction was wrong. However, the judge said he could not rule for the artiste in light of the fact that the appellate court ruled that there was enough evidence to convict him on a gun charge.

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