Fri | May 29, 2015

Busy's mystery now history

Published:Sunday | November 25, 2012
Busy Signal
Busy Signal (left) greets Robert Livingston, CEO of Big Yard/Scikron Entertainment. - Photo by Leighton Levy
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Leighton Levy, Gleaner Writer

"Devastating at first," is how Glendale Gordon described the last six months of his life which saw him being arrested, extradited to the United States, and spending two months in jail before being released and returning home, ready to resume his career as entertainer Busy Signal.

Sitting in an office at the Big Yard label on Westminster Road, Busy looked gaunt, having lost more than 30 pounds throughout the course of his court case and incarceration. The food, he said, was for the most part inedible and so, his body was starved of its usual diet. He fainted a few times while in custody and was eventually subjected to medical tests as the authorities tried to determine what ailed him.

Still, as he spoke about the ordeal, the relief of having the stress of the last six months behind him, he looked hopeful, eager even to resume his life and career. He even mentioned how he saw people including immigration officers cry when he returned home and how that encouraged him.

Sporting a New York Yankees baseball cap which shadowed his face, a grey designer T-shirt with blue trim at the neck and sleeves, blue jeans and black loafers, he was reflective as he recapped the series of events that put his life under the public microscope like he never wanted. "It was just so stressful, this happening to me when I least expected. I was just coming off a tour, just dropped an album, but as dem say, tings come around come haunt you but at the end of the day it wasn't a drug conviction. The first part of the last six months was the devastating part, but now is just the redemption. This was the worst best thing that ever happened to me."

10-year cycle

The story that began this 10-year cycle of adversity to redemption began in early 2002, when Gordon, then a delivery clerk and resident alien in the United States was charged by law enforcement authorities in Minnesota with one count of conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute cocaine, three counts of conspiracy to distribute cocaine and a third charge of possession with intent to distribute cocaine, charges that to this day he refutes. When he was extradited to the United States in June, Gordon pleaded guilty to removing his ankle bracelet tracking device and fleeing to Jamaica. As for the drug charges, according to his lawyer K.D. Knight, United States authorities do not have the jurisdiction to prosecute on those charges under the existing extradition treaty between the two countries.

While not going into detail, he recalls the circumstances that led to the charges and why he chose to flee to Jamaica. "I have been a prisoner in my own mind for over a decade," he said as he went back in time. "January 12, 2002 there was an alleged conspiracy to distribute narcotics charge. That was just the only charge there. I  didn't have narcotics or
anything in my possession, it was someone who called my phone and they
tapped the phone and listened to the conversation. So I got bailed and
the judge read through the transcript and saw that I had nothing to do
with that. At the time I had a public defender and I didn't feel like my
best interests were being represented so my mother saved up and had
someone sort out a personal attorney," he
said.

According to Gordon, as far as he was concerned,
he was innocent and he just wanted to get the case out of the way so he
could get on with his life. In September that year, there was to be a
pre-trial hearing, he recalls, but on the day before, his lawyer met him
at the hotel he was staying with news that he didn't want to hear. "He
presented me with a plea bargain; saying boy, this is the Feds and
everything and you ain't gonna win this so the best I can do is present
you with this plea to five to seven years," he said. "Just plead guilty
and take five to seven. My life, mi cyaan do dat, mi naa tek dis 'cause
mi no guilty. How can I help myself in a country that is not my
country?"

The attorney, he said, told him his only
other option, if he fought the charges, was to spend many years behind
bars and that scared him. He said he asked for a little time to think
about the plea bargain offer but it didn't take him long to decide what
he felt he had to do. "It's the first I was encountering this kind of
thing and they are forcing me to sign my life away. Mi can't do that,
who can I turn to; nobody. Mi a go back a di country wey me born. So I
came back to Jamaica, never approached the USA. I came back to Jamaica
and became an artiste. Prior to all of this I was delivering furniture
as a Rent-A-Centre clerk and on the weekend play sound as a disc jockey
and I paid my taxes."

Not
talkative

In fleeing the USA he left his family
behind; mother, father, and brothers. "I left all that behind, gave up
my green card and everything." Shortly after returning home he began the
life that Jamaicans know; that of entertainer Busy Signal, the
successful entertainer, his secret unbeknown to most. "It was a very
hard 10 years. Now I can say it was one of the reasons why I wasn't
talkative and I never went out much. You would see Busy Signal when you
see a flyer with Busy Signal on it to do a show that has been confirmed.
You never see Busy Signal at parties much 'cause mi a save and mi a
prepare fi say one day this a go happen, but at the end of the day I am
going to have a career, I am going to have a job, a legal life. I am
going to have a clean life with no record. Mi try mi best fi no get
myself inna problem and the little mediocre madness that people would
typically expect from dancehall. I stepped the other way. I gave
different stuff; I gave the unexpected as a Jamaican dancehall
artiste."

He reckons that a few of the people who he
worked with knew of his troubles but at the end of the day, the dread of
being tracked down by the US government was very real. "The US is the
US. The US found Bin Laden, the US went for Saddam. I am an artiste. I
am on Youtube and everywhere I am booked is on the Internet, you know
you can find me at the click of a button so in a way I was doing the
work, I wasn't really hiding I was expecting it because I had to take
planes I had to go places."

He is philosophical about
what running away from the United States really meant for him. The fact
that he was young and that he was running from what he believed to be a
mistake being made by the US authorities, a mistake that would have seen
him give up a huge chunk of his life to spending time behind bars. "Me
coming back to Jamaica birthed Busy Signal," he said. "If I had not
left, there never would be a Busy Signal if I had signed that plea
bargain knowing that I wasn't guilty."

When he was
first extradited, Busy said he was fearful because it meant that his
means of making a living had been taken away and he would no longer be
able to provide for his family. He would also have to invest a
significant part of his savings into hiring good lawyers to take on the
might of the United States government. K.D. Knight and US attorney Bill
Mauzy were the men who battled for him.

Busy, describes Knight as the
'real, real, big man' whom he said understood the case and guided him to
the right strategy that eventually led to his freedom. He also
expressed deep respect and gratitude to Mauzy whose initiatives also
aided his cause. In the days leading up to his sentencing on the charges
of absconding, Mauzy travelled to Jamaica and filmed interviews with
Jamaican entertainers like reggae icon Marcia Griffiths, Busy's pastor,
and teachers of a high school in Brown's Town, St Ann to which he
donated computers. Mauzy also acquired footage of Busy giving talks to
school children about abstinence from sex and HIV awareness as well as
him performing before huge crowds in Gambia. The footage became a
47-minute testimonial of Busy Signal's life over the past decade. That
testimonial plus the court's own investigations into his life combined
to impress judge Donovan Frank.

"This was a life
experience for me and an eye opener saying stay on the track that you
are on because you're doing good, because all of my records came up in
court. All of my deeds came up in court. They even checked if I owe no
promoter money. They even checked if I miss a flight as an artiste. I
have never missed a flight as an artiste. I have never been arrested
prior to the initial charge or after the initial charge," he said. "And
God blessed me with a good judge, who looked into it and understand
it."

Help and support

He also said
he got help and support from his many friends across the globe, people
who knew of his clean living over the past decade. "I got a lot of help.
I got a lot of help from real friends who know me, who could help me to
the extent of their power. I have performed for governments, people who
have met me and my family, they met my team and my musicians," he
said.

He plans to use the experience as material for
songs that he will be releasing in the days, weeks and months ahead. "It
will definitely give me inspiration for songs. It's not like I am going
to sit here and throw things in the face of the US. I am going to do
things more uplifting. Talk seh God help me through this, talk seh my
lawyers Bill Mauzy and K.D. Knight help me through this, talk seh my
record that was good and clean help me through this, talk seh my deeds
help me through this, throughout the music, throughout the 10 years, the
mental prison I was in for more than a decade, and at the end of the
day here it is now, the mystery became a history," he
said.

It will be two years before he will be able to
apply for a permit to work in the United States, but that will not take
away from the fact that he is now able to spend time with his family,
"touch the faces of my daughters" and move on with his
life.