10 YEARS: Buju says he has courage to deal with despair

Buju Banton

TAMPA, Florida (AP) — In a statement he wrote after the sentencing, reggae artiste Buju Banton — whose given name is Mark Myrie — thanked family, fans and supporters from around the world who flooded the court file with letters of support.

“The days that lie ahead are filled with despair, but I have courage and grace and I’m hopeful, and that is sufficient to carry me through,” he said in the statement, which was read by Markus. “The man is not dead. Don’t call him a ghost.”

Banton, dressed in gray jail scrubs and shackled at the ankles, did not speak in court and did not react when Moody announced the sentence. The tall, thin, dreadlocked singer blew a kiss and waved to his subdued supporters as he was led away.

At home in Jamaica, radio stations played his songs nonstop today, including ‘Not an Easy Road’ and ‘Untold Stories.’

A federal judge sentenced Grammy-winning reggae singer Buju Banton to 10 years in prison today, the lowest sentence legally allowed for his role in a large cocaine trafficking deal in 2009.

The 38-year-old artiste got a break when United States District Judge James S. Moody threw out a gun conviction, which would have added another five years to the minimum sentence. Banton’s attorney, David Markus, said with time already served and good behaviour, he could be out in six years.

Disc jockey Bunny Goodison said the husky-voiced singer was “the best at what he did during the last 20 years.”

“The loss of Buju for 10 years will be a tremendous blow to the industry,” Goodison said. “The quality of his music and the message of his songs, which often dealt with the essence of being black, was unparalleled during his time.”

A jury found Banton guilty in February of conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute cocaine, possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking offence and using a telephone to facilitate a drug trafficking offence. Moody threw out the gun charge, acknowledging that Banton had no idea others involved in the conspiracy were carrying guns, which was the basis for the charge. He was not convicted of carrying a weapon himself.

Markus contended that Banton deserved a lower sentence because of his limited participation in the drug buy, his charitable work in Jamaica and his otherwise clean record.

But prosecutor James Preston argued for a longer term, contending that the cocaine deal would not have gone down without Banton’s participation. Moody agreed that Banton’s participation was key to the deal but declined to increase the sentence.

Preston acknowledged it was a sad day for Banton’s fans but noted the distinction between the joyful reggae artist Buju Banton and the drug dealer Mark Myrie.

“He has brought this sadness to these people,” Preston said in court, acknowledging Banton’s supporters who filled the gallery. Preston declined to comment afterward.

Preston argued during trial that Banton portrayed himself as a broker of drug deals in several conversations with a confidential informant. Preston said Banton thought he was getting involved in a “no-risk” deal in which he would introduce a friend to a confidential informant and then collect money from drug transactions.

Prosecutors acknowledged that Banton did not put any money into the drug deal nor did he ever profit from it. Markus characterised his client as “a big talker” who admitted to trying to impress the confidential informant but wasn’t involved in any drug deal.

Much of the case hinged on meetings and phone calls that were video- and audio-taped by the informant, who was working with the Drug Enforcement Administration — and who made US$50,000 in commission after the bust.

In one video, Banton could be seen tasting cocaine in a Sarasota warehouse on December 8, 2009. But he was not present during the actual drug deal on December 10 that led two others to be arrested. Those two men later pleaded guilty.

Banton testified that the informant badgered him after they met on a trans-Atlantic flight in July 2009 and insisted they meet to set up a cocaine purchase. He said he was so uninterested in the informant’s proposals that after they met twice, Banton didn’t return the man’s phone calls for months.

Markus said he plans to appeal.

“This fight is not over,” Markus said. “We will keep fighting for him. Mark Myrie is my brother, and I’m going to keep fighting until they tell me to stop.”

Banton remains wildly popular in Jamaica, and his trial — his second over the drug accusations — was packed with supporters that included other well-known reggae artists. The first trial ended in a mistrial last year after the jury deadlocked.

Shortly before his conviction in February, he won a Grammy for best reggae album for his work entitled “Before the Dawn.”

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35 Comments

  1. Piper
    June 24, 2011

    With the kind of money he ought to have made over the years, why did he even contemplate meeting with a potential drug dealer? When is enough enough. Greed is a terrible thing eh.

    It’s a shame that, with his talent he has to be sitting in a prison for the better part of 10 years. I feel badly for kids who make those kinds of mistakes. but when a grown man who is supposed to know better does these things, especially when he otherwise so successful, I cannot feel sorry for him. he made is bed, now he has to lay on it.

  2. Muslim_Always
    June 24, 2011

    Buju had no right for an artist to be dealing with cocaine on no level, no deal, nothing.

    This is the sad reality of many artists…people follow them, see them as their role models however, behind the screens it’s a different picture. Many of these artists, they divorce, very unstable family lives. Many of them corrupt the souls of others and use empty words such as peace, love, justice and unity but in reality they do not believe in the sounds they produce, it’s just the money.

    Buju, I hope you learn your lesson, anyone can get into a problem from personal to political…even Prophet Joseph peace be upon him was imprisoned. Many great men were imprisoned so hold strong.

    There are many muslims in prison in America so maybe it’s a good thing. Quite a few rappers have left this luxury and materialism and embrace Islam like Napoleon for e.g. May Allah guide you Buju to Islam in the prison, the muslim brotherhood will protect you in the prison.

  3. kb lyric
    June 24, 2011

    So when the Government does it “conspiracy to distribute crack cocaine” to the black community conducted by the “C.I.A” it’s totally legal not saying there’s the usual double standard…

  4. Anonymous
    June 24, 2011

    MAN WHY DID YOU HAVE TO MESS UP THE VIBES…..I LOVED MUSIC…MUCH LOVE…YOUR MISSION FOR A GREATER TOMORROW….REST AND COME BACK STRONGER….AM WAITING..

    SEAN PAUL NOW YOU BETTER KEEP YOUR ASS QUIET…AND CHILL-AX..SMOKE YOUR GANGER IN JA..AND LEAVE THIS WHITE POWDER ALONE WHEN YOU HOP THE WHITE MANS AIR PLAIN..EVEN IF WE KNOW YOU CAN BUY YOUR AIR STRIP..REMEMBER YOU BLACK IN A WHITE MANS SKIN AND WORLD…

  5. River Street
    June 23, 2011

    Sorry buju you do the crime you do the time. How foolish can you be? As a rasta say no to the coke. You fell for babylon set up. A lesson learned. Wish you all the best. Remember bro open rebuke is better than secret love. Jay bless.

  6. jah
    June 23, 2011

    What’s done is done. It is a shock to the system, but Buju must find a way to go forward. Ten years is a long time, but not forever. After the shock wears off, I encourage him to find creative ways to use the time in incarceration. He is a creative individual, and even in jail, he shouldn’t waste time.
    Everything is only for a time. Look forward, not behind.

  7. Truth Seeker
    June 23, 2011

    Pity it is for such a talent! Regretfully, Buju did not JUST run his mouth. He was seen on tape “tasting” coke. That concretizes his involvement in the conspiracy. Such a conscious lyricist, Buju should have known better. That said, I agree that, none could stand up to Buju in his genre of reggae vibes. A realist when it came to exposing and or explaining the plight of the sufferer. If his Christian teachings is to serve him, Buju should come back stronger, not unlike Chadrack, Meshack and Abednego.

  8. Anonymous
    June 23, 2011

    BUJU MAN YOU KNEW BETTER, YOU PREACHING ‘BOUT IT HOW WRONG IT IS THEN YOU TURN ROUND N DO IT , YOU DO CRIME DO YOU TIME MY BRODAA LOT OF LIVES GOT SAVED JUST BY THEM CATCHING YOU THIS TIME , JUST REFLECT PAN YOU DO MAN.

  9. anonymous
    June 23, 2011

    hold strong buju.nuff haters out there after you.pure conspiracy.you are one of my favourite artist in any music and if there were a top ten most influencial reggae and dancehall artist i know you would be right there.as you wrote on you voice of jamaica album leaflet as far i can remember PEACE LOVE AND THE STRUGGLE CONTINUES.

  10. eli
    June 23, 2011

    i too would have agued for longer term. down with illegal drugs. you are an artist thats good enough. no need to put your self into drugs, guns, crimes. later buju. and to all those destroying the young peoples lifes with this drugs your days are next. fly your kite it will come down to

  11. da real hmmm
    June 23, 2011

    hmm buju .. its not an easy road… conspiracy still ..a black man will be a black man till d world end .. d double standard neva ends… hold strong buju

    • blank and proude
      June 23, 2011

      sorry for his multitude of kids, really wish u had taken the plea deal, you would have saved so much money for your kids and be out in a few months…. meditate on you life my brother, write some songs to release wen you out..,. see you in 4 to 6 with good behavior…you will still be youngish and still a legend.. and thank god the judge found a way to add some mercy by dropping the gun charge, madatory means just that.
      the lesson to all is behave wen you go people country

  12. Small Boss
    June 23, 2011

    Yes Mr. big man. Your music has helped me overcome alot of orsticles in life. My brother, I was disappointed when I saw you with the “Gay Rights” people. That led me to some research. I knew that people like you with positive, black upliftment music are targeted. You may never realize it until its too late. There is a certain group of people (not entirely human) that take down musicians that bring a different light into people’s world. All real positive artists, what really happening to them? Never natural deaths. Always some accident or imprisonment. They just disappear. Buju hold strong. We go miss you. Your music still remains. Blessed. Rasta never die.

  13. SIGH
    June 23, 2011

    Every one’s crying outrage at the sentence, what if it were some one else? It’s not about who he is, it’s what he did. Don’t take part in illegal activities and you won’t be penalized. Too many times these artits, actors, politicians and big wigs commit crimes and justice is never served. I don’t feel a thing, because if he did do it, which the prosecution proved beyond a reasonable doubt, then he got his just desserts – end of story.

    • Cerberus
      June 23, 2011

      Remember, this is the minimum sentence he received!I dare say that if it had been someone else it would have been more!

    • Family Guy!
      June 23, 2011

      And ur PM and Grand bay people dealing wit illegal things, so wats ur point??? leave the dam man alone…Boom Bye Bye batty Boi!!!

  14. Evolved
    June 23, 2011

    I have no pity on him – he preaches such hate and violence – especially towards gays – yet at the same time he is involved in trafficking of drugs that quite possibly destroyed many many lives. May he use his time in jail to ponder on his ways and come out a better man –

    • Dominican in T.O
      June 23, 2011

      All batty-man should die…

    • real possie
      June 23, 2011

      where gay thing come in this with all the other stuff he sang about drugs u bring in your gay shit wat u funny man.

    • Family Guy!
      June 23, 2011

      No wonder ur name is ‘Evolved’…u evolved to being a Battybrait!!!

  15. KG
    June 23, 2011

    Hold up Buju hold up… This will make you stronger

  16. Fed up!!!!
    June 23, 2011

    Do the crime – do the time! No sympathy here.

  17. KAYA
    June 23, 2011

    So sad :cry: Love u Buju.

  18. ACN
    June 23, 2011

    Great piece DNO. This is sad news…especially since there was a conspiracy by the US to bring down Buju

  19. Reader
    June 23, 2011

    This is all about the Boom bye bye

    • ACN
      June 24, 2011

      totally agree…the gay rights movement have a lot of power these days.

  20. Piper
    June 23, 2011

    If he was so not interested, why did even meet with the informant even once? There is no such thing as easy money.

  21. Stupes
    June 23, 2011

    Free Buju!!!!

  22. guest
    June 23, 2011

    Wow that’s an expensive punishment for his running his mouth. At least it’s not life. Sorry for you fellow; however for all those who love the dirty place call America take heed

  23. Anonymous
    June 23, 2011

    So so sad….But that hw it is in America System…Yu take all monies for all those albums yu sold…trust me they will take it back one day….America makes yu and break yu…..But jah Know buju inocent…..free Buju

  24. jah
    June 23, 2011

    This is a mind blowing sentence… I thought it was rather extreme for running your mouth.. This judge wanted to send a message and with everything that I read about this case, I sensed that there was a lot of biases from the Judge, Procecution and the way this case was excecuted… God is still in control. I will always be a fan of Buju…. BE STRONG BRETHEN… You will see your dawning…

  25. hummm
    June 23, 2011

    Its not an easy road Buju….we jus a gwone hold d faith with you….Jah Cure did about eight….so tuff out d ting mi boss

    • jah
      June 23, 2011

      jah cure wasn’t 37 yrs..nxt 10 yr buju will be 47..that’s a blow to the artform..

      • KAYA
        June 24, 2011

        stupesss age is just a number.Mandela spent 27yrs in prison and was elected president after his release. Wats your point, if he was an athlete i would agree with your but he is not. Rasta got soul; He will rise above this and become better.

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