Buju's appeal goes sour - Artiste could face more jail time
Arthur Hall, Senior News Editor
Reggae super star Buju Banton is now facing the prospect of having his 10-year prison sentence extended to 15 after a Federal judge yesterday rejected his request for a new trial.
Federal Judge James Moody yesterday denied Buju's request for a new trial and argued that there was no need for one in light of an Atlanta Appeal Court's ruling that there was sufficient evidence to convict the reggae star on a gun charge.
Buju is now to appear in court for a new sentencing hearing when he faces the prospect of an additional five years.
But yesterday, his lawyer, David Oscar Markus, told The Gleaner the fight is not yet over.
"I plan on appealing again and will take this to the Supreme Court if I must," said Markus.
"I won't stop fighting for my friend and brother," Markus added.
Last year, a jury found Buju guilty of drugs and gun charges, but Moody did not sentence him on the gun charge because the Jamaican had never met or spoke with James Mack, his co-accused who was held with the gun.
Lawyers representing Buju challenged the ruling, but the Appeal Court upheld the decision while sending the matter back to the lower court to decide if Buju should be retried.
The Appeal Court also agreed with the prosecution that Buju should have been given prison time for the presence of a firearm during the drug deal.
Just over one year ago, Buju, whose correct name is Mark Myrie, was found guilty of conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute cocaine, possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug-trafficking offence and using a telephone to facilitate a drug-trafficking offence.
The conviction carried a 15-year prison sentence but Moody threw out the gun conviction, lowering Buju's sentence to 10 years.
But the Appeal Court argued that, "Given Myrie's familiarity with the drug trade the jury could have reasonably concluded that the carrying or using of a gun by a co-conspirator was a reasonably foreseeable action ...".
In appealing his conviction, Buju had argued that the government did not establish that he was part of a drug conspiracy, but the Appeal Court judges concluded that the "evidence on record supports Myrie's conviction".
"Myrie demonstrated familiarity with the drug trade, and his behaviour during the instant offence was consistent with his described role of an investor who stays on the outside."
The Appeal Court also rejected Buju's claim that his conviction should be dismissed on the basis that he was entrapped by the State-paid informer Alexander Johnson.
"Johnson only engaged Myrie on the topic of the cocaine after Myrie indicated his familiarity with drug dealing, and Myrie asked Johnson if he could purchase cocaine for him ...," the judges said in their ruling.
"Though Myrie testified that he was just trying to outtalk Johnson and that he was not a drug dealer trying to conduct a drug deal, we assume, based on the jury verdict, the jury disbelieved Myrie ... ."
Buju's argument that he should be set free because he did not get a speedy trial was also rejected by the Appeal Court who said any delay was understandable and did not prejudice his defence.