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."