Sep 4, 2013

Buju’s co-accused released from prison

IAN Thomas, one of the co-conspirators in the Buju Banton drug case, has been released from federal prison.

Thomas — who the Federal Bureau of Prisons' website said was released on August 23 — and James Mack were held in a police-controlled warehouse in Tampa, Florida , attempting to purchase a large quantity of cocaine p> from undercover Drug Enforcement Agents. A quantity of cash and an illegal pistol were later found in a car Mack was driving at the time.

That same day Banton, whose right name is Mark Myrie, was arrested at his home in Tamarac, South Florida.
Mack and Thomas both pleaded guilty to drug trafficking charges and agreed to testify against the Jamaican entertainer in exchange for lesser sentences.
Mack, who is currently serving time in a federal prison in Sacramento, California, is slated for release on November 11 this year.

Banton has been adamant that he is innocent of the charges and despite being sentenced to 10 years is fighting for a new trial after the jury foreperson in his second trial, Teri Wright, was found guilty of contempt of court after it was revealed that she had disobeyed an order from Magistrate James Moody not to study any aspect of the law as it related to Banton's case.
Banton is seeking to ask a US court to throw out his guilty verdict on the grounds that the jury was tainted.

In the meantime, the Buju Banton Defence Support Committee, in a release yesterday, said it remained at a loss in understanding how the foreperson of the jury could be found in contempt of court during the trial and follow-up hearing, yet only one of that jury's decisions was thrown out.

And the committee -- an international group of Banton's friends and civil rights activists — yesterday denied a local media report that the imprisoned entertainer has retained his former lawyer, David Oscar Markus on his legal team.
"That information is false. David Markus is not on Buju's legal team. Buju's new Attorney is Charles Ogletree of Harvard University. He is the sole attorney representing Mark," the group said in a release.

Attorney Chukwe Lumumba, who had replaced Marcus, was in June this year forced to recuse himself after he was elected mayor of Jackson, Mississippi. He, however, assisted the committee in securing the services of Charles Ogletree Jr to represent the Jamaican entertainer.

Ogletree is director of the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He founded and became director of the school's Criminal Justice Institute in 1990.

Banton was on August 24 sent to the FTC prison in Oklahoma, from where he will be transferred to another federal prison to serve his time.
He was previously locked up at the FCI penal institution in Miami, Florida but when the evidentiary hearings into Wright's misconduct began last year he was transferred to the Pinellas County Jail in Tampa.


Sep 3, 2013

Buju Gets New Lawyer, Transferred To Another Prison

Buju Banton is making some serious movements in his ongoing quest for freedom.

The Grammy-winning reggae star has acquired the services of a new attorney name Charles J. Ogletree Jr. after his previous lawyer Chokwe Lumumba was elected mayor of Jackson Mississippi.

“Attorney Charles J. Ogletree is the Jesse Climenko Professor of Law Director, Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice,” Buju Banton`s Defense Support Committee said in a statement. “Accordingly, he is more than ready to continue the fight for justice for Buju. We expect that Attorney Ogletree will determine what his next steps will be after reviewing the case. Attorney Lumumba has already filed a notice of appeal following the incomplete justice Judge Moody gave on June 26, 2013.”

Buju Banton is also being transferred to a new prison.

According to reports, the reggae singer, real name Mark Myrie, was transferred from a Florida prison and is now being held at a Federal Transfer Centre (FTC) in Oklahoma City.

The reason for his transfer is not yet known.

Banton was convicted on three counts of drug trafficking charges and sentenced to 10 years behind bars.


Sep 1, 2013

Buju Banton on the move, being transferred to new location

Convicted reggae superstar Buju Banton has been transferred from the Florida federal prison where he has been serving a 10-year sentence. 

His final destination is still unknown, but the Grammy-winning entertainer, whose real name is Mark Myrie, is now at the Federal Transfer Centre (FTC) in Oklahoma City. 

A spokeswoman at the Federal Bureau of Prisons this morning declined to discuss the reasons for the transfer or divulge which facility he is being transferred to. 

"As a matter of policy, we don't discuss that," the spokeswoman told The Gleaner. 

According to the Bureau of Prisons' website, the FTC is an administrative facility that houses male and females holdover offenders. 

Buju was convicted on drug charges stemming from an attempted drug deal in 2009. 

A Florida judge recently dismissed his appeal for a new trial, but the entertainer has already served notice that he will continue his fight to overturn the conviction. 

Buju's 10-year sentence started December 2009, his projected release date according to the Bureau of Prisons' website is March 2019. 

Livern Barrett, Gleaner Writer 

Buju Banton set to release new album in 2014

Despite being incarcerated on federal drug charges until 2019, embattled Dancehall/Reggae singer, Buju Banton is planning to drop a new studio album in the summer of 2014, according to reports Friday.

Tracii McGregor, a member of Buju’s management team revealed that most of the songs on the singjay’s album were recorded when he was out on bail in 2011, awaiting his trial on drug and gun charges. McGregor told the Jamaica Observer, "Buju is very involved in the process, of course. He is just as focused and detail oriented as he ever was.”

Producers expected to feature on the album include Stephen Marley and Blacker Dread, with production from Buju himself also featuring on the compilation.

This new studio album would mark Buju’s 13th in his over two decades as a mainstream artist. His last album was Before The Dawn, released in 2010, which featured singles such as Innocent, Battered and Bruised as well as Do Good. The album won the self-professed ‘Gargamel’ his first Grammy Award for Best Reggae Album in February 2011, just days prior to his conviction on three drug related charges in relation to a 2009 incident in Florida.

Several singles have been released since Buju’s incarceration, including Set Up The Mic, Lose Your Love and Inna Half, the latter two singles produced by his son, Markus Myrie.

Buju is reportedly in transit at the Oklahoma City Federal Transfer Centre, having been transferred from a federal prison in Florida, where he as served the majority of his sentence to date.


Aug 4, 2013

Feds won't file contempt charge against juror in Jamaican reggae singer's drug trial

TAMPA, Florida
Federal prosecutors in Tampa won't file a criminal contempt charge against a juror in Jamaican reggae singer Buju Banton's 2011 drug trafficking trial.

U.S. District Judge James Moody said in June that jury foreman Terri Wright should face charges for doing independent research into the case during trial.

In court documents filed Wednesday, prosecutors said they planned to oppose Banton's latest appeal and could not prosecute Wright simultaneously. They suggested that the court appoint another prosecutor to pursue charges against Wright.

Banton is serving a 10-year sentence for convictions on cocaine conspiracy and trafficking charges stemming from a 2009 arrest.

Banton's attorneys have sought to withdraw from the case. Chokwe Lumumba was elected mayor of Jackson, Miss., last month, and Imhotep Alkebu-lan became special assistant to that city's attorney.


Jul 25, 2013

Reggae star Buju Banton's attorneys want to leave case

TAMPA — Reggae star Buju Banton's attorneys want to quit representing him in the appeal of a federal drug case. Attorney Chokwe Lumumba was elected mayor of Jackson, Miss., this summer. Attorney Imhotep Alkebu-lan became special assistant to Jackson's city attorney. The two filed a motion Wednesday in U.S. District Court, asking to withdraw and stating that their new duties "will prevent them from representing him in future proceedings."

Their vigorous defense of Banton won a dismissal of a gun charge in June and left Tampa juror Terri Wright facing a possible misconduct charge for researching the case during trial.

Banton, born Mark Anthony Myrie, is serving a 10-year prison sentence for helping set up a deal to buy and sell 11 pounds of cocaine. His attorneys wanted U.S. District Judge James S. Moody Jr. to order a new trial. Instead, Moody set aside a conviction on a gun charge, reasoning that it might have been affected by Wright's research.

The two defense attorneys also withdrew last week from a murder trial that was supposed to have begun Monday in Oktibbeha County, Miss. The Starkville Daily News in Mississippi reported Saturday that Lumumba first cited mayoral duties in attempting to leave the murder trial. When a judge declined, Lumumba presented documents relating to a health matter, and the defense team's withdrawal was allowed, the account said. In the Tampa case involving Banton, the motion to withdraw has been referred to Magistrate Judge Thomas G. Wilson.

It states that Banton has retained other counsel. 


Jun 28, 2013

Buju Banton Weighs His Options

Photo: Riina Asamoa
Reggae superstar Buju Banton is now weighing his options after a Florida federal judge, yesterday, threw out the gun possession charge arising from his drug conviction two years ago.

However, Imhotep Alkebu-Lan, co-counsellor for the embattled reggae star, real name Mark Myrie told media Buju has 14 days to decide his next move.

Buju was in court seeking a new trial based on allegations that jury fore-woman Teri Wright violated the judge's orders in his February 2011 drug trial.

US District Court Judge, James S. Moody Jr, allowed Buju's conviction to stand but threw out the gun conviction which would have given the artiste an additional five years in prison.

"He (Buju) is now in the deliberation phase and is weighing his options to decide his next move," said Alkebu-Lan.

Moody also instructed prosecutors to bring contempt charges against Wright after accepting she did independent research and also provided the court with an incorrect hard drive for examination.

Compromised decision

The judge found that Wright discussed her findings from the independent research with other jurors, but that it was not possible to say if that had influenced the jury's decisions.

This information came to light after she did a newspaper interview in October 2012.

A computer forensics expert later testified that the hard drive that Wright submitted came from a desktop computer that sat idle from May 2010 to June 2011, a time frame that included the trial and its aftermath.

If found guilty, Wright could face fines and up to six months in prison.

Alkebu-Lan said Banton and his team had 14 days to make an appeal, whilst the prosecutors had 30


May 8, 2013

Buju Banton Returns To Court On June 26

Incarcerated reggae star Buju Banton will have his day in court on June 26, 2013.

Federal Judge James Moody Jr. has ordered the Grammy-winning singer, as well as, embattled juror Teri Wright to appeared in court on the same day in relation to the ongoing juror misconduct case.

Buju Banton and his legal team, headed by Chokwe Lumumba, are requesting a new trial on the grounds of a juror misconduct.

Teri Wright, who helped put Buju Banton behind bars for 10 years, told a South Florida journalist last year that she researched aspects of the case during the trial.

However, a massive dent was dealt to Buju Banton case against the juror last month when a computer expert found no trace of research on her computer hard drive.

Banton’s lawyers, however, said she turned over the wrong hard drive.

Buju Banton, real name Mark Myrie, is currently serving a 10-year sentence in a Florida prison after being convicted for drug trafficking. He is also facing an additional five years for a gun charge that was previously thrown out.

Judge James Moody is expected to hand down a ruling on June 26.


Apr 5, 2013

Buju gets another lifeline

REGGAE artiste Buju Banton was handed another lifeline yesterday after it was revealed that embattled juror Teri Wright had submitted the wrong computer hard drive for examination by a computer forensic expert hired by him to examine if she had studied aspects of the law involving his drug traffick-ing case during his second trial in February 2011.

Banton's attorney Kwame Lumumba told the Jamaica Observer yesterday that Wright had indicated to the court, during an earlier sitting, that she had used a laptop computer, but the expert had found that she in fact submitted the hard drive for an old desktop computer.

"Her attorney stated in court that she surrendered the hard drive of a laptop computer. She said she did research on the case three weeks after the trial. The expert found no evidence that she did any research at all on that hard drive and found that it was not the hard drive of a laptop but the hard drive of a desktop. We are of the firm opinion that she did not submit the hard drive for a laptop computer," Lumumba said.

Wright had reportedly told a reporter that she studied aspects of the Pinkerton Law which was used to convict Banton on a firearm charge.
He faces an additional five years after an Appeals Court threw out a motion to have his sentence overturned.

He also pointed to other inconsistencies in Wright's statements during jury selection for the trial.
"It was also revealed that she had served on seven juries, but she said she only served on one jury in a civil matter. She is a seasoned juror. If his lawyer (who was then David Markus) had known that, she would have been rejected. She changed the syntax of her statement because at first she said she served on juries then changed and said jury. It was very misleading," said the lawyer.
The revelation has prompted Lumumba to file a motion asking US Judge James Moody to make a ruling that Wright had violated his orders.

If the court rules in favour of Banton, it would open the way for a new trial for the entertainer who is serving a 10-year sentence after being found guilty of drug-related charges. He is currently languishing in the Pinellas County Jail in Tampa, Florida until the matter is sorted out by the US Sam Gibbons Court in the same city.

"A new trial, that is what we are asking for," said Banton's lawyer.
Lumumba said the ruling could be handed down in two weeks as his client has been incarcerated and was uncertain of his future.

Banton, whose real name is Mark Myrie, would then undergo a third trial to prove his innocence and if he is successful he could seek damages for wrongful imprisonment and loss of earnings. He could also argue that his right to travel to the United States and work, which has been taken away by the US authorities, be reinstated.

"If we are successful it does raise certain questions if he will pursue a civil suit," he said.
The Jamaican entertainer was arrested at his Tamarac, South Florida home in December 2009 after US Drug Enforcement Agents arrested two men — James Mack and Ian Thomas — in a government-controlled warehouse in Tampa as they attempted to purchase a large quantity of cocaine from undercover police.


Feb 21, 2013

Judge to order search of former juror's hard drive in Buju Banton case

A Florida federal judge is to order a juror to hand over her computer hard drive for a forensic search by an expert as international reggae star Buju Banton seeks a new trial. 

The matter came up in court yesterday. According to the Tampa Bay Times, US District Court Judge James Moody said he would allow a defense computer forensics expert to make a copy of the hard drive belonging to Terri Wright, who was the jury foreman at the trial. 

Buju’s attorneys are accusing Wright of violating court rules when she alleged researched information on the Jamaican entertainer during the trial. The judge reportedly ordered that the expert could only release information about the alleged research to attorneys and that all other material should be kept private. 

Wright has denied the allegation saying she conducted research only after the case had ended. Buju’s attorneys want his 2011 drug conviction to be overturned and a retrial ordered. Buju, whose real name is Mark Myrie, is serving a 10-year prison term on his drug conviction.