FLORIDA, United States, Thursday June 23, 2011 – Reggae superstar Buju Banton will spend the next 10 years behind bars in the US-state of Florida, , followed by five years of probation.
Buju, whose real name is Mark Myrie, was sentenced this morning by US District Judge James Moody, four months after being convicted of conspiracy to set up a cocaine deal in 2009. He was facing up to 15 years in prison.
Friends, family members and supporters had gathered in the packed courtroom to hear whether the judge would heed calls for leniency. When Moody delivered the heavy sentence, which the 37-year-old Buju will serve at a federal prison in Florida, they hugged each other and openly cried while the singer remained calm.
Prior to the sentencing, the judge had received several letters from Buju’s children, other relatives, and fans asking that he be shown mercy.
The Associated Press reported previously that a former Jamaican government official, an NBA player, other reggae artists and actor Danny Glover, who called Buju a “role model, philanthropist and spiritual leader in the community”, were also among those who made appeals.
“Your honor, Mark Myrie is not a drug dealer,” Glover wrote. “Society would not benefit from his incarceration.”
Markus had contended that Buju’s limited participation in the drug deal, his charitable work in Jamaica and his otherwise clean record entitled him to a reduced sentence.
Buju was found guilty in February of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine; possession of a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking; and using a telephone to commit a drug offence.
The court heard during the trial that he boasted to a government informant that he was a big drug dealer and talked about setting up the purchase of 11 pounds of cocaine.
Prosecutors presented several audio tapes of their conversations as well as videos, including one in which Buju was seen tasting cocaine. But the singer claimed he was just “talking big” to impress the man whom he thought was influential and could help his career.
The singer went through a first trial in September last year but that ended in a mistrial after the jury could not reach a verdict.
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