Gun charge retrial blocks Buju's appeal
Judges in the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th circuit said the fact that Buju Banton was granted a retrial on a gun charge that has yet to take place, prevents them from hearing his appeal to have two drug-related convictions overturned.
If the judges had ruled in his favour, the reggae superstar would have been released from federal prison where he has been serving time since 2010.
The ruling means that Banton, whose given name is Mark Myrie, will serve his 10-year sentence in federal prison arising out of his drug conviction in 2010. He is scheduled for release on January 3, 2019.
He was convicted for conspiracy to possess five kilograms or more of cocaine with intent to distribute, and aiding and abetting by use of a telephone to commit a drug-trafficking crime.
According to the US Bureau of Prisons inmate locator, he is being held at CI McRae, in McRae, Georgia.
Three Member Panel
In a ruling on Wednesday, a three-member panel held that case law prevented them from hearing the case brought by Myrie.
"The inquiry, according to Myrie, is into the finality of the post-judgment order, not the potential for another prosecution ... . Nevertheless, we do not have jurisdiction to reach the merits of the district court's decision to deny Myrie's motion for a new trial on counts one (conspiracy to possess five kilograms or more of cocaine with intent to distribute) and four (aiding and abetting by use of a telephone to commit a drug trafficking crime). We are bound by two cases - to conclude the pending charge against Myrie prevents us from hearing his appeal at this point in the proceedings," the court said.
Myrie had argued that the fact that the motion was granted in part does not deprive the court of jurisdiction to hear his appeal. He said the fact of the government's ability to recommend prosecution on the gun charge does not detract from the finality of the district court's order. Myrie argued that the enquiry was into the finality of the post-judgment order, not the potential for another prosecution.
Nontheless, the appeal judges insisted they had no jurisdiction to delve into the merits of the district court decision to deny Myrie's application for the counts on which he was convicted. They said they were bound by case law.
A jury found Buju guilty on three of the four charges, but when sentencing came around in June 2011, Judge James Moody threw out a gun allegation, which carried a mandatory minimum sentence of five years.
Although the government successfully convinced a court to convict Myrie on the gun charge, a federal judge in 2013 granted a retrial on the gun charge.