The legal woes of imprisoned reggae superstar Buju Banton continue to mount after a Florida court on Aug. 7 denied his request for a retrial on his drug conviction, and the possibility that he may face additional charges. Buju, whose real name is Mark Myrie, was sentenced in February 2011 to 10 years in prison after he was convicted on three drug-related charges, including conspiracy to distribute cocaine and aiding and abetting a person’s use of a telephone to facilitate a drug crime. In December, Buju’s legal team, led by Florida-based attorney David Oscar Markus, appealed the sentence, citing a potential violation of the Speedy Trial Act, and the questionable nature of renowned government informant, Alexander Johnson, among other grounds for dismissal.
But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit denied the request in June, concluding “that the evidence on the record supports Myrie’s conviction.”
The appeals court also sided with the jury’s decision to find the entertainer guilty on a related firearm charge, which had been thrown out by trial judge James Moody. As a result, the Grammy-winning artist could face an additional five years behind bars.
Following Judge Moody’s decision to deny Buju’s request for a retrial, Markus told reporters that he is not going to give up on his client.
“I plan on appealing again and will take this to the Supreme Court if I must,” he told The Jamaica Gleaner. “I won’t stop fighting for my friend and brother.”
Buju fans, too, are determined not to give up on the reggae star and a “Free Buju” movement has developed on the Web.
“His fans are devastated,” said Ziskah Prince, 34, a longtime Buju aficionado. “His absence from the music scene is a definite loss because something valuable has been taken out of the equation.”
Part of Buju’s value, Prince added, was his leaning toward “positive” music.
“So, the youths who are hungering for positive messages and feedback from this icon are not getting it and that’s sad given all the negative music out there,” Prince, a Trindad and Tobago resident, added.