Court denies bail request for Buju
Arthur Hall, Senior Gleaner Writer
A United States magistrate yesterday rejected a bail application for reggae superstar Buju Banton.
The magistrate also denied a request from lawyers representing Buju that he be ordered moved to a non-maximum security penal institution.
US magistrate Anthony Porcelli said he would not order Buju's release because he believes there is a risk he could flee to his home country, Jamaica.
The magistrate also said he would not interfere with the operations at the Pinellas County Jail where Buju, whose correct name is Mark Myrie, is being held.
Attorney-at-law David Markus had gone to court claiming that Buju had lost 40 pounds because he was denied the vegetarian diet he requires for religious reasons, and that his mental and physical health had been rapidly deteriorating,
Marcus also claimed Buju had been transferred to a maximum security section of the jail and this was hindering his ability to prepare for his trial, which begins in weeks.
But a federal prosecutor told the court that the claim that Buju was being treated inhumanely was a lie.
Assistant US Attorney General James Preston presented evidence that instead of losing 40 pounds Buju had gained 11 pounds since being in custody.
The court was told that Buju was 150 pounds when he was booked into the Pinellas County Jail on January 5, and when he was weighed recently he tipped the scale at 161 pounds.
Markus challenged those records, asserting Buju's weight when he was booked was just an estimate.
But a jail official said the numbers were supported by records kept by jail medical staff, who have weighed Buju several times during his detention.
Markus complained he hadn't seen the records before the hearing.
According to the prison official, Buju never asked the jail chaplain, who handles such requests, if he could be placed on a vegetarian diet.
The official said he reviewed records of Buju's commissary transactions and found purchases of meat and fish, including chicken, tuna and mackerel.
According to the jail official, he has since directed that Buju be given a vegetarian diet.
Markus said Buju gave other inmates the meat he bought in the commissary and had filed a diet request with the chaplain.
The prison official also rejected claims that Buju was being housed in a maximum-security section.
He said Buju was being kept in an older part of the jail where the security arrangements were different, but not punitive, because he argued with a prison official who told him not to give his food away.