News

Buju to know fate on gun charge today

BY KARYL WALKER Online news editor walkerk@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, October 30, 2012 | 4:56 AM    

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IMPRISONED Jamaican entertainer Buju Banton will know today if he will be slapped with an additional five years in prison when he appears in the US District Court in Tampa, Florida.

Banton, whose real name is Mark Myrie, was ordered re-sentenced on a gun charge following his failed appeal on a 10-year, drugrelated sentence in the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta.

However, despite the threat of additional prison time, Banton’s new attorney Chokwe Lumumba has asked Judge James Moody to reduce his sentence after it was revealed that a female juror had breached federal court regulations by studying the Pinkerton Law during the course of Banton’s second trial.

The law was used by prosecutors to connect him to a firearm, although he was miles away at the time the gun was found in the possession of a co-conspirator who was purchasing cocaine in a government-controlled warehouse in Tampa.

The juror, Terri Wright, has reportedly admitted to a Florida-based media house that she violated federal regulations and researched certain aspects of the case online during the trial to have a better grasp of the issues when deliberation started.

Lumumba refused to speak to the media yesterday and said, via an assistant at his office, that he would be available for interviews after today’s re-sentencing hearing.

Wright’s admission has opened a lifeline for the artiste, and Lumumba has been adamant that his client could seek a retrial or even a dismissal of charges when he files a request for a hearing on the matter before the court.

He may face opposition from the prosecutors in the case who may seek to have the request thrown out and push for Banton to languish for another five years.

However, Banton’s previous attorney David Oscar Markus said that, given the new revelation, his former client has a chance of serving a shorter sentence.

Markus had also written a letter informing Moody that Banton should be given a reduced sentence of five years and a day as he was a first offender, who had the backing of his entire country and has carried charitable works.

“I’m rooting for Buju. He doesn’t deserve 10 years in prison, let alone 15. The jurors violated the judge’s order and that’s why it went from a first vote of 10 to two for not guilty to a conviction. I really hope Buju gets the relief he deserves,” Markus told the Jamaica Observer via electronic mail yesterday.

Banton had requested that he be allowed to remain in prison during the sentencing hearing, but that request was thrown out by Judge Moody.

He is currently listed on the Federal Bureau of Prisons website as inmate number 86700-004 and is being housed at the Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) in Miami, Florida, a low-security facility which houses male inmates.

Yesterday, prison authorities removed him from that facility and took him to a holding cell in Tampa to await his fate.

If he manages to escape being slapped with additional time Banton is due to be released on March 1, 2019.

His two co-conspirators, Ian Thomas and James Mack, both had guilty pleas and were sentenced to 51 months each.

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