Early Monday morning, the legal team representing Jamaican music icon, Buju Banton, was forced to file an emergency motion with the US District Court (Middle District) in Tampa, Florida on behalf of their client. Last Thursday, Banton (aka Mark Myrie), who has been incarcerated at Pinellas County Jail (PCJ) in nearby Clearwater since early January, was placed in maximum security for 30 days for giving away his food to a fellow inmate. After several futile attempts to negotiate directly with the jail (and the prosecutor, Assistant US Attorney, James Preston) to have Buju moved back to general population, Team Banton felt compelled to file the Emergency Motion for Bond or for Alternative Relief.
Lead defense attorney, David Oscar Markus, believes this excessive punishment is simply the latest in a long line of subtle yet exacting harassment endured by the Reggae star since his transfer to PCJ. Immediately upon his arrival at the jail, Banton, a devout Rasta who follows a strict ital diet, filled out the required paperwork to apply for vegetarian meals, but all of his requests were ignored. In addition to his visible weight loss, Banton has been inexplicably moved from floor to floor of the jail — 5 times at last count. And his cell is customarily tossed by guards (read: searched at random), among other things.
According to reports from former inmates who were interviewed for a PCJ resource site about (but unaffiliated with) the jail, South Division or “max,” is for non-sentenced (usually dangerous) felons. However, Central Division, the minimum security area where Banton was previously housed, at least has a “microwave and hot water” and is “very clean and neat compared to max.”
Breakfast – 3:00am
Lunch – 10:00am
Dinner – 4:00pm
Shank & Cereal
Meat & Gravy
Macaroni & Ham Bits
Inmates may order from the commissary twice a week.
Below is an excerpt of the motion filed by Mr. Markus:
EMERGENCY MOTION FOR BOND OR FOR ALTERNATIVE RELIEF
Because Mr. Myrie had the audacity to share his food with a hungry inmate, he was sent out of general population and into the maximum security wing of the prison. When Mr. Myrie told the officer that he did not believe that he was doing anything wrong, he was told that he could contest her finding, but if he lost, he would be sent to the hole. Knowing how that would turn out, Mr. Myrie waived his opportunity to contest the hearing and was sent to maximum security for the next 30 days — the most critical 30 days of Mr. Myrie’s life as he prepares for trial.
Since being incarcerated in December 2009, Mr. Myrie has lost about 40 pounds and has not been provided with a diet in accordance with his religious views. Although he has been able to make appropriate meals in the kitchen with food he purchased from the commissary, he does not have the ability in his new maximum security wing. In addition, the living areas and kitchen are unsanitary, and the showers do not work. Because he is being treated inhumanely, we have no choice but to file this motion for bond.
The decision to then place Mr. Myrie in a maximum security wing weeks before his upcoming trial suggest that something else is going on. Counsel for Mr. Myrie was advised that he would remain in maximum security for at least 30 days, and that there was “nothing we can do about it.” In sum, Mr. Myrie is now in a maximum security wing for caring enough to offer food to another inmate who was hungry, and genuinely believing there was nothing wrong in doing so.
Transferring Mr. Myrie to maximum security is not only affecting him (Mr. Myrie’s mental and physical health has been rapidly deteriorating) but it is affecting undersigned’s counsel’s ability to prepare for trial. For example, this week when counsel attempted to visit Mr. Myrie, counsel was required to wait over two hours until he could see Mr. Myrie.
Many of the people that we spoke to at the facility tried to help us and agreed that this “violation” was extremely minor. We were told, however, that once the decision was made, it was not going to be overturned.
Team Banton was granted the emergency hearing and will appear in Tampa Federal Court on Friday, March 26th at 10am before Magistrate Judge Anthony E. Porcelli.
In the meantime… Bujumania!
FREE BUJU! RADIO/TV/WEB CAMPAIGN
Listeners request and selectors continue to play as much Buju Banton music as possible, especially the uplifting new single “Optimistic Soul,” which officially dropped online, March 23rd. Multimedia programmers should add the accompanying music video into rotation on local, national and international TV outlets and web sites. Plan a special Buju Banton Tribute program for the weekend of April 16th-18th (just before the trial start date of Monday, April 19th).
Swap your Facebook/Twitter profile pic to the official Free Buju! logo or your favorite photo of Buju Banton. Bombard the web with inspirational Buju Banton lyrics, quotes, interviews, videos and other memorabilia. Stay optimistic.
WRITE TO THE GENERAL
Continue writing letters of encouragement to Buju Banton:
Mark Anthony Myrie – Docket # 1387202
Pinellas County Jail
14400 49th Street North
Clearwater, Florida 33762-2877
Please note *new housing info, which must be included in address to ensure delivery.
FAST & PRAY
The Gargamel Music Family will begin our collective fast on April 1st. Join us in solidarity!
~ GET DOWN WITH THE MOVEMENT ~
Official Free Buju! T-Shirts
We Support Buju Banton
Tampa Bay Supports Buju Banton
Buju Banton ♫It’s Not An Easy Road♫ Supporting Him In His Struggles
We Demand A Fair Trial For Buju Banton
Buju Banton On Facebook
Buju Banton On MySpace
Buju Banton On YouTube