Nov 29, 2011

Buju Banton Heads to Relatively Safer Miami Prison After Stay in Rough Texas Jailhouse

Buju Banton has been on the move during the first few months of his ten-year sentence on federal drug charges. The iconic dancehall star went from Florida to Oklahoma to Texas, back to Oklahoma, and he'll soon be en route to the Federal Correctional Institution Miami, according to David Oscar Markus, Banton's attorney.

Plans to place Banton in a Mississippi prison fell through when authorities discovered that a codefendant in the case had already been assigned to the facility. Authorities then stowed Banton in a Federal Transfer Center in lovely Oklahoma City before moving him to a correctional institution in the dreadful-
sounding city of Groesbeck, Texas.

"He was at one of the worst places you can imagine -- a county facility that had been converted to house federal inmates," Markus said. "The place was used for short-stay Mexican nationals who were going to be deported. It was filled with Mexican gangs. Buju was one of very few black men in there. It was really violent."

A Tampa jury found Banton guilty of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine, possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug-trafficking offense, and using the wires to facilitate a drug-trafficking offense in February 2011, days after he won a Grammy for best reggae album.

Federal Judge James S. Moody Jr. later tossed the gun charge, given the fact that Banton had never met or spoken with James Mack, a codefendant from Georgia who brought the gun to the drug deal, which turned out to be a sting operation orchestrated by a government informant. Banton was hundreds of miles away, resting in his Tamarac duplex, when the bust occurred.

Both Judge Moody and the Jamaican consulate urged the Federal Bureau of Prisons to move Banton from the Texas facility.

"We're very appreciative that Judge Moody stood by his initial recommendation that Buju should be in Miami," Markus said. "And he made a point to comment that Buju is a peaceful person and shouldn't be housed in a violent facility."

Markus said he plans to file an appellate brief with the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta later next month.


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