Jan 23, 2011

Buju steadfast as 2nd drug trial draws closer


DAVID Oscar Markus, the attorney representing beleaguered Jamaican Reggae icon Buju Banton, has hailed his client's resolve and sense of purpose during his times of trouble.
Banton, registered at birth as Mark Anthony Myrie, was arrested and jailed by Florida police in December 2009 on drug-related charges. He spent 11 months in the Pinellas County Jail and is set to face another trial next month for conspiracy to possess, with intent to distribute five or more kilogrammes of cocaine, and facilitating the use of a firearm in committing a crime.

But Markus said the experience has brought out the best in the four-time Grammy-nominated Reggae artiste, as lesser mortals would have crumbled under the pressure which Banton has endured.
"The reason Buju hasn't crumbled is because he is innocent and is a man of faith. He has told me many times that he'd rather serve 15 years than admitting to something he didn't do. Of course, we plan on winning, so he won't have to serve another day," Markus told the Sunday Observer.
Last week, Markus served a motion to dismiss a superseding indictment filed by prosecutor James Preston, which added two charges of attempted possession of cocaine, facilitating a cocaine conspiracy by aiding and abetting others using a telephone, and possessing and carrying a firearm.
Markus argued in his motion that the additional charges were filed out of sheer vindictiveness on the part of the United States Government.
"Due process prohibits prosecutors from acting vindictively when exercising their discretion either to bring charges in the first instance, or to supersede existing charges with more onerous ones," the motion states.
Both defence and prosecution are awaiting the court's ruling on the matter and to also find out which date in February the artiste's second trial will get underway.
If found guilty, Banton could be sentenced for up to 20 years in a federal prison. His assets could also be seized by the United States Government.
In September, Myrie's first trial ended in a mistrial after a 12-member panel of jurors failed to come to a unanimous decision as to his innocence or guilt.
He was granted bail soon after and the Federal Court granted him permission to perform at a concert to raise funds to pay his legal bills.
The first trial reportedly cost Myrie US$450,000.
The concert, dubbed "Before The Dawn — Buju Banton and Friends", was held at the Bayfront Park Amphitheatre at Biscayne Boulevard, downtown Miami last Sunday and attracted about 10,000 patrons, some of whom expressed hope that Banton would overcome his legal woes which have stalled his career for over a year.
Dorrett Williams, a resident of West Palm Beach, a Florida city which is about an hour's drive from downtown Miami, wished that the artiste could come through unscathed.
"I have known Buju since he was a child living on Barbican Road. We were neighbours and we used to call him 'Blacka'. I am silently hoping and praying that he will be found not guilty so he can take up where he left off and keep entertaining us as only he can," Williams said.
Fellow reggae artiste Everton Blender was also full of hope that the artiste would be found not guilty.
"Everyone makes mistakes, and it is times like these that we need moral support. Buju is a good man and that is why I have come to perform here without charging. He needs all the support he can get," Blender told reporters after his performance on Sunday.
During his performance, Banton was obviously relieved that he was no longer locked away. His already thin frame seemed to have lost a few pounds, but he never showed any wear and tear as he put on an energetic two-hour performance.
He has consistently maintained his innocence and took time out from his set to take a jab at his accusers.
"Why do they want to see Buju cry? Is it because of Boom Bye Bye? Is it because I say Selassie I? Is it because I am black and not shy?" he belted out, much to the approval of his adoring fans.
At another juncture, he sang, "Babylon lock me inna jail and don't want gimme no bail. Like a me name Josey Wale."
The artiste has been under constant pressure from the international gay community for a single he released in the infancy of his career entitled Boom Bye Bye. The song hits out at the gay lifestyle and caused homosexual activists to dub the song 'murder music'. The tune has sparked numerous demonstrations by members of that community at his concerts in North America and Europe,
He has not performed the song on stage for more than a decade and had attended a meeting with members of the United States gay community in 2009, in a bid to mend fences.
However, the move has failed to appease gay lobbyists, who have protested his Grammy nominations and sought to have him banned from performing at venues in Europe and North America, two continents where he rakes in a substantial portion of his earnings from live appearances.
A Haitian national who lives in Miami and gave his name only as Francois, was certain that Banton was set up by gays, who he feels will go to any length to see the Jamaican's career on the dump heap.
"I strongly believe that he was set up by gays. He certainly does not need drug money to survive and everybody knows they hate his guts," Francios said.
Surprisingly there was no gay protest at the concert on Sunday.

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