Jun 27, 2011

Buju turns to academics - Artiste pursuing master's degree

Source: http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Buju-turns-to-academics_9068454

AS Buju Banton says goodbye to his freedom for what could be at least six years behind US prison walls for a drug conviction, the Rastafarian reggae artiste says he intends to spend his time seeking higher learning.
Speaking exclusively with the Sunday Observer after his 10-year sentence was handed down in the Sam Gibbons Federal Court in Tampa, Florida last Thursday, Banton (real name Mark Anthony Myrie) said he was already attending classes inside the Pinellas County Jail in Tampa and planned to attain a master's degree by the time his federal sentence is served.

"I am already going to classes. I have passed the acceptance test and I will be studying political science and economics. I hope to get a master's by the time I am released," Myrie said.
With steely resolve ringing in his voice during a telephone conversation with this newspaper, Myrie was adamant that he would not crumble under the pressures of incarceration and said he was determined to make good out of his troubles.

"I can do anything I put my mind to; you know that. I have balls of steel. People who know me know that I am very determined and will achieve my goals despite hardships. I will not allow the system to conquer me," the artiste declared.

In the United States, inmates serving federal time are allowed to pursue tertiary education in an effort to rehabilitate them and curb the high rate of recidivism.
A study by the Graduate Centre of the City University of New York revealed that inmates who take college classes while in prison are four times more likely to stay out of trouble when they are released. The research showed that only 7.7 per cent of inmates who took college courses returned to prison, compared to 29.9 per cent of those who did not. The New York study also found that college prison programmes save US taxpayers about US$900,000 per 100 students every two years.
Myrie's attorney, David Markus, has repeatedly pointed to his client's strength of character and told reporters that despite being jailed for 18 months since December 2010, the artiste had remained optimistic and in high spirits.

Markus was dismissive of suggestions by reporters outside the courtroom that guilty pleas by Myrie's co-defendants Ian Thomas and James Mack had a bearing on the 10-year sentence meted out to the artiste.
Thomas and Mack both received sentences of 51 months after filing guilty pleas. Both were held attempting to purchase a large quantity of cocaine from undercover drug enforcement agents in a police-controlled wharehouse in Sarasota, Florida, hours before Myrie himself was arrested at his home in Tamarac, South Florida and carted off to jail.
"There is a big difference. Mark has fought two trials and I think that stands for what kind of character Mr Myrie is to the other people," Markus said.
Myrie, dressed in his grey prison uniform with shackles around his ankles, seemed resigned to his fate in the courtroom last Thursday, even flashing a brief smile after his sentence was handed down by United States Judge Jim Moody .

He laughed loudly many times during his brief conversation with the Sunday Observer.
He repeated his expression of thanks for the outpouring of support and urged his fans and well-wishers to be strong.

"Even though the days ahead may be filled with despair, I will prevail over this malady that has befallen me. I may be down but not out and I shall return," was his message.
Markus has signalled his intention to appeal the judgement in an appellate court in Atlanta, Georgia and exuded confidence that the possibility exists that the 38-year-old Myrie could be out of prison in two years if his arguments hold water with a three-member panel of judges.
Moody had on Thursday dropped the charge of possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug offence against Myrie.

"We are looking forward to the appeal," said Markus. "We believe we have a lot of good issues on the appeal and now that we have knocked out two of the counts we have got two to go. We are not going to stop fighting on those two."

Buju Banton, the only surviving son for his late mother and the only son sired by his father Benjamin Myrie, shot to prominence in the early 1990s with the hit song Browning. He ruled the world of dancehall with his raspy vocals and catchy lyrics before his conversion to the Rastafarian faith about six years later.
Since then, he has had five Grammy nominations and was awarded the Reggae Grammy earlier this year for his album Before The Dawn, just weeks before he was convicted by a 12-member panel of jurors for his role in a cocaine deal.

An earlier trial in 2010 ended in a mistrial after a jury could not unanimously decide on his guilt or innocence.

Jun 24, 2011

Buju Banton timeline

Source: http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/entertainment/Buju-Banton-timeline_9055035

SINCE the early 1990s, the name Buju Banton has been at the forefront of the Jamaican and international reggae/ dancehall music fraternity. The deejay, known for his engaging live performances fuelled by a poignant catalogue of music, was yesterday convicted on drug charges. Here is a look at the time line of the artiste.

1972 -- Mark Anthony Myrie is born in Salt Lane, St Andrew on July 15.
1986 -- a young Buju is introduced to producer Robert Ffrench by fellow deejay Clement Irie.

 The publicity photo of the artiste released in the early 1990s. At right: The high-riding deejay prior to his embrace of Rastafari and growing his locks.

1987 -- Buju drops first single. Debuting with the track The Ruler.
1991 -- Buju joined Donovan Germain's Penthouse Records label leading to the release of popular hits including Bogle, Browning and Black Woman.
1992 -- Re-release of Buju Boom Bye Bye, which had been recorded years earlier.
1994 -- Buju, reportedly affected by the singer Garnett Silk's death, embraces Rastafari and begins growing his locks.
1995 -- Buju releases what is considered his seminal album 'Til Shiloh -- marking a slight shift away from dancehall towards roots reggae.
1999 -- Buju drops Inna Heights which earns him a Grammy nomination.
2004 -- Saw the release of the politically charged Friends for Life album which also received a Grammy nod.
2007 -- In a return to his dancehall roots, Buju dropped the album Too Bad which also found favour with the Grammy panel.
2009 -- On April 21 Buju releases album Rasta Got Soul.
2009 -- In September, Buju kicks off Rasta Got Soul tour of the United States at the Trocadero Theatre in Philadelphia. However, the tour is plagued by cancellations due to pressure from gay rights groups.
2009 -- On October 13, following the cancellation of a number of dates on his Rasta Got Soul tour, Buju meets with four members of San Francisco's gay community.
2009 -- In December Drug Enforcement Administration agents remanded Banton into custody in Miami, where the US District Attorney charged him with conspiracy to distribute and possession of more than five kilogrammes of cocaine.
2010 -- On September 27, the case against Buju Banton was declared a mistrial after the jury was unable to reach a unanimous decision.
2010 -- Before the Dawn, the ninth studio album from Buju is release in North America and Japan on September 28.
2010 -- on November 10, Buju is released on bond.
2011 -- January 16, Buju performs to a sold-out audience at a specially arranged fund-raising concert held at the Bayfront Park Amphitheatre in downtown Miami.
2011 -- On February 13 -- one day before the scheduled start of his retrial in Tampa, Florida -- Buju Banton's Before The Dawn album is announced as the winner of the Best Reggae Album category at the 53rd annual Grammy Awards being held at the Staples Centre in Los Angeles, California
2011 -- February 22 -- Buju is found guilty of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute five or more kilogrammes of cocaine, possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug-trafficking offence and using communication wires to facilitate a drug-trafficking offence. He was found not guilty on the charge of attempted possession of five kilogrammes or more of cocaine.

Jun 23, 2011

Buju gets 10 years

Source: http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Buju-gets-10-years

REGGAE artiste Buju Banton was today sentenced to 10 years by United States magistrate Jim Moody in the Sam M Gibbons US Court in Tampa Florida. He will be incarcerated at the FCI prison facility in Miami.
The artiste – real name Mark Myrie – was found guilty in February of conspiring to negotiate a drug deal in a police controlled warehouse in Florida.
The charge of possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug offense was dropped however.
The artiste was slapped with the heavy sentence despite pleas for leniency by his attorney, his children, movie star Danny Glover and other character witnesses.
Banton, whose real name is Mark Anthony Myrie, seemed resigned to accept his fate and calmy accepted the verdict.
His attorney David Oscar Markus has signalled his intent to appeal Banton's guilty verdict and indicated that he would move with alacrity to secure the artiste's release.

The sentence was handed down in front of a packed courthouse which included members of the artiste's family, his close friend Wayne Wonder, his manager Traci McGregor and reporters.
Many persons, including artistes and Banton's close friends Gramps Morgan and Delly Ranks who came to hear the verdict were turned back after court officials indicated that the courtroom was packed and Moody had already been seated at minutes to 9:00 am.
The sentencing hearing lasted just over an hour and many of Myrie's supporters and family members cried openly.
The artiste will serve his time at the penal facility in the state of Florida.
Myrie underwent two trials after the first trial ended in a mistrial in 2010. He was however found guilty of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute five or more kilogrammes of cocaine, using the wires to facilitate a drug offense and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking offence.
Banton's two co-conspirators, Ian Thomas and James Mack both plead guilty after they were held in a sting operation attempting to purchase cocaine from federal agents in a police controlled warehouse in Tampa.
The US government built their case around wiretap and video evidence which caught Banton tasting cocaine and making several statements of the purchasee and sale of large amounts of contraband.

Jun 12, 2011

'Please spare our dad' — Buju's kids appeal to judge

Source: http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Emotional-pleas-for-Buju_8995518

Reggae artiste’s kids, Danny Glover, NBA star Etan Thomas, Stephen Marley write to judge urging compassion

'PLEASE, spare our dad.' This is the emotional plea from four of the 15 children of Grammy Award-winning artiste Buju Banton to Judge Jim Moody ahead of the reggae artiste's sentencing on gun and drug-related charges on June 23 in the Sam M Gibbons Federal Court in Tampa Florida.

The siblings' letters for mercy form part of a document filed last week by Banton's legal team seeking a reduced sentence for the Jamaican artiste, who is facing 15 years to life behind bars. The letters are also among others penned by the likes of renowned actor Danny Glover, NBA player Etan Thomas, Vibe Magazine editor-at-large Rob Kenner and reggae artiste Stephen Marley.

Reggae artiste Buju Banton and members of his legal team heading to court in Tampa, Florida for his retrial in February this year. (Photo: Paul Henry)

In their letters, the children pour out their hearts, as they explain what their father, whose real name is Mark Myrie, means to them.

"My father is a great person. He always make us smile when he is around...," said Jahazeil, 14. "I love my father so much. He always care about us and encourages us to do the best we can and I miss him because there is no father like him."

Banton's daughter Jodian, who at 21 is the artiste's eldest child, noted in her letter: "My father is a very hardworking man who puts a lot of time — basically his entire life — into his music and family."
Seven-year-old Jahleel, in his letter, said: "My father was always there for me and I will be there for him. He was the only person that understands the way I feel... My father is the world to me, and I am to him."
Eighteen-year-old Shadai described her father as "the backbone of my family".

She added: "Without him many things would not be possible. He is there for myself, my sisters and brothers, both financially and emotionally. He motivates each of us when we feel like the weight of the world is on our shoulders. How then could we picture a comfortable life without our main source of comfort?"

Banton was convicted in February on charges of conspiracy to distribute five or more kilogrammes of cocaine, possession of a firearm in the furtherance of a drug-trafficking crime and using the wires to facilitate a drug-trafficking offence. The conviction follows a first trial in September of last year which ended without the jurors being able to reach a verdict. He was arrested in December 2009, resulting from a covert operation.
Last Thursday, Banton's legal team filed the document asking for a sentence below the mandatory minimum of 15 years behind bars, which the lawyers are contending would be cruel and unusual punishment.

In his letter to the court, Glover describes himself as a friend of Banton's, and noted that the artiste is "considered one of the most influential reggae musicians" and that his "Grammy-Award winning music" addresses every aspect of life and "feeds the heart, mind, body and soul, bringing a message of hope". "Not only is Mr Myrie a great musician with a great deal of work ahead of him," Glover added, "he is also a role model, philanthropist, and spiritual leader of the community."

Noted Kenner of Vibe Magazine: "He is religious and has travelled to the Holy Land to attend prayers in Golgotha Ethiopian Monastery, Jerusalem. Mark Myrie is one of the leading voices of his generation. His music sheds light on such issues as the unrelenting violence and abject poverty pervasive in the Third World."
Meanwhile, Marley, the son of reggae icon Bob Marley, said that Banton was like a brother to him and asked the judge to be "compassionate to Mark".

Thomas, who plays for the NBA team Atlanta Hawks, described Banton as "an extremely positive inspiration" in his life and "countless people around the world, especially black men".
Said Thomas: "...His music helped keep me out of trouble and encouraged me to perform to the best of my ability, no matter the challenge. ...It is for this reason I hope to have Mr Myrie included as one of the fathers... in my book on fatherhood: a guide to being a good father. Mr Myrie willingly accepted to participate without any request for financial gain. He is truly a humble man who makes himself accessible to all who reach out to him."