Mark Myrie also known as Buju Banton has officially been sentenced to 10 years behind bars. Banton was handed his time by Federal Judge Jim Moody in the Sam M. Gibbons Federal Courthouse today in Tampa, FL.
Among the dozens of letters of support in the court file were those from several of Banton’s 15 children wrote, a Jamaican government official, an NBA player, other reggae artists and actor Danny Glover, who called Banton a “role model, philanthropist and spiritual leader in the community.”
“Your honor, Mark Myrie is not a drug dealer,” Glover wrote. “Society would not benefit from his incarceration.”
Banton’s oldest son, also named Mark Myrie, wrote that his father “puts hard work, sweat and tears into his music and that is what (he) ‘puts on the table,’ it has never been drugs…The situation is just an example of our mere imperfections as people, being at the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Banton remains wildly popular in Jamaica, and his trial — his second over the drug accusations — was packed with supporters that included other well-known reggae artists. The first trial ended in a mistrial last year after the jury deadlocked.
Banton, whose real name is Mark Anthony Myrie, was found guilty in February of conspiring to negotiate a drug deal in a police controlled warehouse in Florida. The reggae artist originally faced a minimum sentence of 15 years. In February, Banton was found guilty of conspiring to negotiate a drug deal with undercover officers. He was found guilty on 3 of 4 charges including:
- conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute five or more kilograms of cocaine
- using wires to facilitate a drug offense
- possession of a firearm in the furtherance of a drug trafficking offense
The possession of a firearm charge has since been dropped. Banton will carry out his time at the FCI prison facility in Miami, Florida.
In a statement he wrote post-sentencing, Banton — thanked family, fans and supporters from around the world who flooded the court file with letters of support.
“The days that lie ahead are filled with despair, but I have courage and grace and I’m hopeful, and that is sufficient to carry me through,” he said in the statement, which was read by Markus. “The man is not dead. Don’t call him a ghost.”
On the island of Jamaica, radio stations played his songs, including “Not an Easy Road” and “Untold Stories.”
Jamaican disc jockey Bunny Goodison said the husky-voiced singer, was “the best at what he did during the last 20 years.”
“The loss of Buju for 10 years will be a tremendous blow to the industry,” Goodison said in Jamaica’s capital, Kingston. “The quality of his music and the message of his songs, which often dealt with the essence of being black, was unparalleled during his time.”
Markus said he plans to appeal. He also said with time already served and good behavior, he could be out in six years.
“This fight is not over,” Markus said. “We will keep fighting for him. Mark Myrie is my brother, and I’m going to keep fighting until they tell me to stop.”
Shortly before his conviction in February, Buju Banton won a Grammy for best reggae album for his work entitled “Before the Dawn.”
Sources: Associated Press