Tag Archives: Miami

Miami New Times Cover Story Proclaims Buju Banton’s Innocence

Buju Banton Is Innocent

Once again, Jamaican music icon, Buju Banton, is featured on the cover of this week’s Miami New Times. The story, “Buju Banton Is Innocent,” penned by staff writer Chris Sweeney, details the  events leading up to the Reggae star’s arrest, and duly picks apart the government’s case, which hinged on the testimony of career criminal, Alexander Johnson.

A convicted drug trafficker turned government informant, Johnson worked vigorously for months to set Buju up, bringing his potential “big catch” to the attention of pals at the DEA and overzealous prosecutor, Assistant US Attorney James C. Preston, Jr. who he has been working hand-in-hand with for the last 10 years.

Thoroughly researched and incredibly well written, this compelling feature is the first to paint a fuller picture of Buju’s life’s work and the seedy circumstances surrounding the government’s case. Sweeney writes:

“The saga sheds light on how far the government will go and how dirty it will play to win the few big battles left in the long-ago failed War on Drugs. Now, while one of the most successful and controversial Jamaican artists — a man who won a Grammy for best reggae album a year ago — sits in a Miami penitentiary, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals is considering whether unconstitutional tactics were used to nail a man who had no known criminal record.”

A sidebar piece in the Broward-Palm Beach New Times takes a closer look at government snitch Johnson, and breaks down the millions of dollars he’s made off the backs of US taxpayers, while working as a confidential informant. Sweeney writes:

“But Johnson isn’t a U.S. citizen, and he’ll never be one due to his felony-laden criminal record. Yet he has managed to earn nearly $3.5 million of taxpayer money while working as a confidential informant. He’s a persistent and crafty snitch who used booze and claims of music industry contacts to lure Buju, a Grammy-winning reggae artist, into environments he may otherwise have avoided.” 

The entire story is available online now. Hard copies will begin circulating in South Florida on Wednesday evening. Big respect to Chris Sweeney and The Miami New Times for making sure the full regarding this case is told.



Filed under Buju Banton General, Buju Banton Media Watch, United States vs Buju Banton

The Caged Bird Sings Of Freedom

The caged bird sings

With a fearful trill

Of things unknown

But longed for still

And his tune is heard

On the distant hill

For the caged bird

Sings of freedom.

Dr. Maya Angelou (from I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings)

Freedom! Photo By: Robert Cooper

Greetings in the name of the Most High…

As you can imagine, the Gargamel Music Family’s entire world was shattered by the outcome of Buju’s trial. Two months have passed and the heartache has not eased at all. We lost a long, hard-fought battle but, alas, this legal war wages on. We remain confident in Buju’s innocence and vigilant in our fight for his ultimate freedom. There is nuff work to be done and the time has come for us to pick up the pieces and march forward in the struggle.

Buju’s strength and resolve throughout this painful ordeal has been nothing short of inspiring. He is a true soldier who continues to stand firm in his beliefs and will not be broken. He earnestly thanks his friends for life — the fans worldwide — for your unyielding support and only asks that you remember him in a positive light and continue to play his music in the days to come.

We encourage you to send uplifting letters to Buju at the address below:

Mark Anthony Myrie – Docket # 1443397


Pinellas County Jail

14400 49th Street North

Clearwater, Florida 33762-2877

If you feel like you want to top up B’s commissary, include a money order with all of the above information written on it (Mark’s legal name/docket number, etc…) and place it in the envelope with your letter. The guards who open the mail will make sure it’s added onto his account.


We recently sat down with Buju’s attorney, David Oscar Markus, who took the time to school us on how the sentencing and appeal processes works so we have a better sense of what to expect.

The trial and sentencing judge, James Moody, Jr. still has yet to rule on either of the post trial motions filed by Markus back in February: 1) motion for judgement of acquittal  2) motion for a new trial. Markus filed a separate third motion for bond pending sentencing and appeal that he is also waiting to hear from the Court on.

Buju’s sentencing is currently scheduled for June 23rd. While Judge Moody can take other things into account, he still must abide by the current mandatory minimum drug sentencing guidelines, which based on the three convictions: 1) Conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute 5 or more kilograms of a substance containing a detectable amount of cocaine  2) knowing and intentionally possessing a firearm in the furtherance of a drug trafficking offense and 3) using the wires to facilitate a drug trafficking offense, bring the mandatory minimum in this case to 15 years.

  • After sentencing, Markus has 14 days to file a notice of appeal. Then he will order the trial transcripts, which will take about 30 days.
  • As soon as Markus gets the transcripts, he has 40 days to file a brief, which will contain his arguments.
  • The government gets 40 days to respond. Markus gets 40 days to reply.
  • Then the Court will decide whether to allow oral argument (where 3 judges listen to the case). Only 10% of all appeal cases are granted this opportunity.
  • After oral argument, the Court usually takes between a month and a year to rule.

Those who wish to donate funds toward the appeal may send a wire transfer to the official Buju Banton Defense Fund set up by his attorney:

Markus & Markus, PLLC
(Defense Fund for Buju Banton)
Citibank, N A
Coral Way Branch
1600 Coral Way
Miami, FL 33145
ABA # 266086554
Account # 9118130472

You may also make a donation via Paypal. Just log in and direct monies to FREEBUJU@gmail.com

The Gargamel Music Family remains steadfast in our efforts to promote and preserve the musical legacy of Buju Banton. As he reiterated in his Miami New Times cover story in January of this year, “they can lock the flesh but they can never lock the spirit of Rasta.” We intend to keep Buju’s spirit moving and his voice soaring — through music… And we already have several projects in development:

Buju Banton & Friends: Before The Dawn Concert DVD

We are working out the logistics to make the official DVD of the Before The Dawn Concert available for sale later this year. We are aware of the weak bootleg circulating on the streets and will deal with the culprits accordingly. In the meantime, we just ask that the fans hold on and support the real product when it comes out. It will definitely be worth the wait.

New Buju Banton Studio Album

While the General was out on bail and under house arrest he finished up some tracks for an album co-produced with longtime UK brethren, Blacker Dread. The pair previously worked together on the rousing 2010 anthem “Innocent” featured on Buju’s Grammy-winning album Before The Dawn (Gargamel Music). This new album will drop some time in 2012 on Gargamel Music, Inc.

Buju Banton Live Album

Team Gargamel has collected some amazing live material over the past few years and we plan to release the first Buju Banton live album some time in the near future.

Buju Banton Coffee Table Book

For the past few years we’ve been shooting with esteemed celebrity photographer Jonathan Mannion (Too Bad and Rasta Got Soul album covers) to produce a photography book that visually captures the excitement and frenetic energy of Buju’s live performances along with some exclusive behind-the-scenes moments on the road with the artist and his band.

Gargamel Music Website

At long last, we are in the process of revamping the Gargamel Music website. www.GARGAMELMUSIC.com will be the hub for all things Buju Banton on the web. We will also be selling authentic Buju Banton merchandise, including the Official Free Buju T-Shirts, which are now available in a Limited Edition Red in addition to the original Black and Green color waves. And keep your eyes peeled for the brand new Buju Banton Logo Tee that will be available at relaunch!

The Gargamel Music Family Thanks You For Your Support!


Filed under Buju Banton General, Buju Banton Music, United States vs Buju Banton

Buju Banton’s Before The Dawn Concert Live Webcast To Reach Fans Across The Globe

Fans around the globe who are unable to make the trek to Miami for the historic Before The Dawn Concert featuring Buju Banton & Friends will have the unique opportunity to watch the event online. Gargamel Music and Rockers Island have partnered with New York-based Webcast provider CMX Events to produce a High Definition (HD) Before The Dawn Concert Webcast. The pay per view program will stream live on the Internet from 5pm – 10pm EST on Sunday, January 16th and will be available for a period of 24 hours after the show.

Those fans who are making the trek to Miami but haven’t yet bought their tickets can still go online to BUJULIVE.com or head to the Bayfront Park Amphitheater box office on Sunday where tickets will be sold from 12 Noon. The Before The Dawn Concert features a blockbuster lineup of artists, including Stephen Marley, Shaggy, Gramps Morgan, Wayne Wonder, Freddie McGregorTarrus Riley, Dean Fraser, Nadine Sutherland, Everton Blender and several surprise guests! Gates open at 4pm. Show begins at 5pm sharp.

A limited amount of Official Free Buju T-Shirts will be available for sale at the park for a discounted price of $25. Get there early to get yours!


Filed under Buju Banton General, Buju Banton Music, Buju Banton Videos

Buju Banton & Friends To Perform At Before The Dawn Concert in Miami on January 16, 2011!!!

News of Buju Banton‘s 2010 Grammy nod for his prophetic new album, Before The Dawn, comes on the heels of a federal court ruling by Judge James Moody that allows Banton, who is currently out on bail, to perform at an event in South Florida during Martin Luther King, Jr. Weekend. The veteran Reggae artist, who had been incarcerated at Pinellas County Jail for 11 months, has not performed live in over a year.

Produced by Rocker’s Island Entertainment and Gargamel Music, the Before The Dawn Concert featuring Buju Banton & Friends will take place on Sunday, January 16 at Bayfront Park Amphitheater (301 North Biscayne Blvd.) in downtown Miami, Florida. Additional artists will be announced in the coming weeks. Music for the event will be provided by New York’s Hot 97’s  finest, Massive B with Bobby Konders and Jabba. A family affair, doors open at 4:00pm and the show starts at 5:00pm sharp and ends promptly at 10:00pm. Kids under 12 enter FREE with an adult!

Tickets for the history making Before The Dawn Concert featuring Buju Banton & Friends are on sale now at BUJULIVE.com and/or TICKETMASTER.com. For more information or to rent a booth, please call 305.438.9488.

Get your Official Free Buju T-Shirts now by sending an email to freebuju@gmail.com!!!!


Filed under Buju Banton General, Buju Banton Music

NEW VIDEO EXCLUSIVE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! BUJU BANTON – “Optimistic Soul”

“Optimistic Soul,” the brand new single from Buju Banton‘s Grammy-nominated album, Rasta Got Soul (Gargamel Music), officially drops digitally on Tuesday, March 23rd. Shot and directed guerilla style by esteemed Atlanta-based photographer, Zach Wolfe, the music video documents the last five days of Banton’s historic Rasta Got Soul US Tour.


Filed under Buju Banton Music, Buju Banton Videos

Shocking Details About Government Snitch In Banton Case Revealed!

Banton Battles Back

Thursday, March 4th proved to be a revelatory day for Team Banton, who appeared in US District Court in Tampa, Florida for two hearings. The first proceeding at 8:30am was handled by the judge who will actually be overseeing the trial, Judge James Moody. After conferring with the attorneys, Moody locked in the trial start date for Monday, April 19th.

The second proceeding, held before Magistrate Thomas Wilson at 10:30am,  focused on the series of motions filed last month by Banton’s criminal defense attorney, David Oscar Markus, requesting additional information about the government snitch who set up Buju Banton. According to Markus, the government has been slow to turn over documents, transcripts and other key information related to the case.

Here’s a few of the shocking details that were revealed about the still unnamed government snitch who set up the Reggae icon:

He transported over 2,000 kilos of cocaine and 3-4,000 kilos of marijuana between 1984 and 1993!

He was convicted in South Florida in 1993 of distributing cocaine in a case that brought a minimum mandatory sentence of 10 years!

He has been paid 3.3 million dollars for helping law enforcement (DEA, Customs, FBI, Sarasota PDs) in numerous cases over several years!

He is a legal permanent resident of the United States from Colombia and was granted that immigration status only after law enforcement requested it!

He is paid on a contingency basis and looks to collect approximately $35,000 from the Banton case!

His credibility was called into question by one judge who doubted the truthfulness of his testimony in a case!

He is currently involved in a tax dispute with the IRS!

He has worked consistently with Assistant US Attorney James Preston, the prosecutor handling Banton’s case, for the last 10 years!

Markus argued in court that he needs more information to adequately cross-examine the government’s star witness, including specifics on the snitch’s criminal history, details of his tax case, transcripts from other cases he has testified in and a list of the amounts of money he has earned in each case. Assistant US Attorney Preston countered that his office already turned over any favorable information that might help the defense, as required by the court.

Nevertheless, Magistrate Wilson ordered the prosecution to provide the defense with a list of all the cases (w/ case numbers) the informant has testified in and any communications by criminal law officer or prosecutor asking for beneficial treatment in the informant’s tax case and immigration file. The prosecution has 14 days to turn over everything to Team Banton.

Photo Credit: Jonathan Mannion


Filed under United States vs Buju Banton

DJ Khaled Supports Buju Banton

In a recent interview with the newly relaunched VIBE.com, Miami-based  DJ Khaled voices his support for longtime friend and collaborator, Buju Banton: “He’s a friend of mine and I know him for being a great person, great family man and being a great artist and a real dude,” says Khaled, who is preparing the release of his fourth album, Victory. “Buju Banton, I salute, that’s my brother right there and his music is amazing. Free Buju Banton!”


Filed under United States vs Buju Banton

This Is Buju Banton: 2009 Rewind


Gargamel Music circulates “A Little Bit Of Sorry,” an upbeat ska ditty from Jamaican music icon, Buju Banton’s long-awaited roots opus Rasta Got Soul. The single officially drops in February.

FEBRUARY 16 & 21
Buju Banton heads to the West Coast to headline back-to-back Ragga Muffins Festivals, in honor of the late, great Bob Marley and other Legends, at the San Diego Sports Arena and Long Beach Area, respectively.

Buju Banton hosts exclusive early listening session of Rasta Got Soul at Son Of Funky Reggae in Hollywood, California with legendary club promoter and celebrity DJ, Matt Robinson. Guests include: Jeremy Piven, Kina Cosper, Cree Summer, Rocky Dawuni and several other LA area trendsetters.

Buju makes his first ever appearance at the 16th Annual Bob Marley Caribbean Festival at Miami’s Bayfront Park. By all accounts, including ReggaeReport.com, the Banton steals the show!

Buju’s beloved mother, Murdine “Miss Dotty” Clarke, passes away.

Miss Dotty is laid to rest. Her youngest son, whom she nicknamed “Buju,” reads a heartfelt eulogy at the funeral services.

Buju’s seventh studio album, Rasta Got Soul, officially drops in North America on the 43rd anniversary of Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie’s historic visit to Jamaica in 1966. Dr. Carolyn Cooper, a professor at University of the West Indies (UWI) in Kingston, hosts an intimate Rasta Got Soul album launch on campus. After playing a few tunes, Buju regales the students and faculty both with exciting tales of his remarkable life in music.

The rave reviews roll in: All Music Guide says Rasta Got Soul is “an instant classic,” Buffalo News calls the album “immaculate.” Billboard calls RGS “spirited” and “inspiring,” while Exclaim! magazine in Canada professes that “Rasta Got Soul is the work of a modern master… Celebratory, inspirational, positive, optimistic and uplifting.”

Buju Banton co-headlines the 5th Annual Reggae On The Hill Festival at Farley Hill National Park in Barbados. It is his first performance since his mother’s death and the bittersweet release of his new album.

Rasta Got Soul is the highest-ranking debut on Billboard magazine’s Top Reggae Albums Chart entering at #2. The album also makes a strong first week debut at #8 on Billboard’s Heatseekers Chart and #8 on iTunes’ Top 10 Reggae Albums Chart.

Buju Banton graces the Spring/Summer cover of Jamrock magazine.

Buju Banton’s Rasta Got Soul European Tour kicks off in France. The rigorous, 40-city jaunt includes stops in the UK, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Amsterdam, Austria, Belgium. Banton and his Shiloh Band, along with opening acts: Nikki Burt, Angel Shalome, New Kidz and Delly Ranx, also perform for massive crowds at Summer Jam in Germany (40,000 fans), Rototom Sunsplash in Italy (20,000 fans) and chart three new territories: Czech Republic, Poland and Portugal.

Buju Banton nabs the cover of Natty Dread magazine in France.

Buju Banton headlines veteran New York radio personality Dahved Levy’s annual Buju Banton & Friends Reggae Extravaganza Concert at the WaMu Theater At Madison Square Garden. Guest performers include: Burning Spear, Shabba Ranks, Gramps & Peter Morgan, Queen Ifrica and Tony Rebel.

Buju Banton joins R&B star John Legend at his star-studded sold out concert on the main stage at Madison Square Garden for a live performance of their smash Reggae-Soul collabo. The NY Post reports:

“The entire house bounced when Legend hooked up with dancehall star Buju Banton for ‘Can’t Be My Lover.’ There was a yin/yang to that pairing as Banton’s fast, gritty, Jamaican patois gave the Reggae number edge while Legend’s mellifluous, Marley-like tones eased that roughness.”

Several gay organizations launch a media smear campaign against Buju Banton in an unwitting effort to shut down his upcoming Rasta Got Soul US Tour. Overlooking the fact that his catalog is overwhelmingly positive, they insist he makes “hate music” and promotes the “murder of gays and lesbians” via “Boom Bye Bye,” a twenty-year-old “anti-buggery” missive written by a 15-year-old Buju in response to a man-boy rape case that took place at a prestigious high school in Jamaica.

Executives at Live Nation and AEG Live, along with several independent venue owners, bookers, show promoters, government officials and anyone in-between, endure a steady bombardment of threatening phone calls, nasty emails and faxes filled with sensational misinformation about Buju and the RGS US Tour. Some corporate live music power brokers succumb to the unrelenting pressure but many true-blue indie venue owners and die-hard promoters hold firm, ultimately changing the tide of what could have been a major setback for live music in the “land of the free.”

Fans launch We Support Buju Banton Facebook Group in support of the music icon. International membership quickly swells to thousands.

Buju Banton makes 10-day pilgrimage to Africa.

Buju Banton, backed by the Shiloh Band, kicks off his Fader magazine-sponsored Rasta Got Soul US Tour to a sold-out crowd at the Trocadero Theater in Philly! Opening acts include Gramps Morgan, Nikki Burt and Angel Shalome.

Philadelphia Inquirer reviewer, A.D. Omorosi writes: “From the ‘Wipeout’-based rhythm-backed rap of ‘Me & Oonu’ through to the soulful ‘I Rise’ to cribbing Michael Jackson’s universal plea ‘Heal the World,’ Banton proved he could make things right within his music.”

San Diego club owners/promoters, Eric Milhouse and Chris Goldsmith of the Belly Up in Solana Beach, California release a powerful statement backing Buju Banton:

“Most people, when looking at the facts about the artist and his music over the course of his career, agree with the conclusion that Buju Banton does not advocate violence or hatred of any kind and that canceling this show based on assertions to the contrary would not be the right thing to do.”

Refusing to be bullied, Columbus, Ohio club owner Rick Cautela and local Reggae promoter Carl Newman fight back by adding Buju Banton for a second night at Alrosa Villa, a mid-size venue the artist has consistently sold out for many years.

“I received 300 calls and another 400 emails in about 3 days, all of them negative some of them threatening,” Cautela tells local weekly The Other Paper. “That was my family cell phone, the one my wife also uses.”

Prior to his landmark show at the Rock It Room in San Francisco, Buju Banton attends a historic meeting brokered by veteran gay activist and 2011 mayoral candidate, SF Supervisor Bevan Dufty. Two days earlier, Dufty, who is in DC for the National Equality March, calls Buju’s manager and says, among other things, that he uniquely “understands the underlying racist implications of the ongoing protests and would like to see them end.”

Together with SF Supervisor Eric Mar, Dufty wants to provide a non-hostile environment for Buju to address the age-old issue of “Boom Bye Bye” once and for once and for all in the “gay capital of America” and only asks that he also hear first hand from some of the community’s most prominent members, including: Andrea Shorter, Rebecca Rolfe and incendiary gay blogger Michael Petrelis, who inexplicably writes a scathing, self-promoting, extremely bias account of the meeting that only fans the flames of controversy.

Luckily, Team Gargamel had the foresight to invite local Bay Area writer, Eric K. Arnold (who has been writing about Buju Banton and the issue for nearly a decade) to sit in on the meeting to ensure balanced, fair and impartial coverage on the San Francisco Weekly Blog . Sadly, the common ground reached at the SF meeting is ridiculously short-lived. Later that night at the Rock It Room, Buju’s show is pepper sprayed, allegedly by a lone, gay extremist still intent on battling the Banton.

Days later, in a Jamaican radio interview with Mutabaruka on his Irie FM talk show The Cutting Edge, a still heated Buju states: “This is a fight… There is no end to the war with me and faggots, and it’s clear! The same night after I met with them they pepper sprayed my concert. So what are you trying to tell me?”

The gay media have a field day with this quote. Predictably, they extrapolate the words “there is no end to the war with me and faggots” from their original context and plaster them all over the web without ever explaining the fullness of the scenario (i.e. the meeting, the pepper spray, the protests and the all out war they have been waging against him off-and-on for 17 years).

Buju Banton plays the Belly Up in Solana Beach, as scheduled. The show is a near sell out. Nestled in the crowd are some local gay activists, including Syd Stevens, who erected the malicious Cancel Buju Banton web site targeting the RGS US Tour.

After the show, the club’s owners unbeknownst to Buju, usher Syd and his boyfriend backstage to meet and talk with Buju in person. Conspicuously, Syd never bothers to mention his attendance at the Solana Beach show or the impromptu meeting afterwards on his slanderous site, which has been updated several times since the tour ended.

Fortunately, the Belly Up crew releases a detailed account of the backstage “showdown” between Buju Banton and San Diego gay activists.

“First and foremost, we heard with our own ears Buju unequivocally denounce violence and hatred towards gays and lesbians. Secondly, that night we heard a concert that was entirely free of hate and that specifically did not contain the song ‘Boom Bye Bye.’ During our conversation he acknowledged that he has also made hurtful comments, and even expressed regret for his choice of words during last week’s radio interview…”

The Florida chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) releases statement publicly chiding members of the gay community for their dogmatic attempts to silence Buju Banton for a song he does not promote, perform or profit from today.

“It is disheartening that some of our colleagues in the gay and lesbian equality movement have embraced censorship as a tactic,” begins the official statement recently printed in the Op Ed section of the Miami Herald. “This is terribly short-sighted: Giving the government the power to censor messages it thinks are dangerous never advances the cause of equality and freedom.”

Two hours before Buju Banton’s RGS show at Palm Beach in Dallas, Texas, promoter Winston “Gold” Roberts gets a call that federal agents are trying to shut down the club for a code violation. The owners settle what turns out to be a minor infraction and Buju rocks on.

Buju’s Rasta Got Soul US Tour stops at Center Stage in Atlanta. Walk-up sales for the midtown area show are phenomenal, further demonstrating the mainstream appeal, power and demand of Buju Banton and Reggae music in the Dirty South.

Team Gargamel bumps into esteemed, Atlanta-based hip-hop photographer/videographer, Zach Wolfe at the show. They decide to partner up and lens the accompanying music video for the single “Optimistic Soul” plus shoot the final week of Buju’s Rasta Got Soul US Tour for an impromptu documentary short entitled This Is Buju Banton. The doc will feature exclusive behind-the-scenes and live footage, interviews with Buju, Shiloh Band and staff, promoters, club owners, fans, detractors, and more.

On the way to Buju Banton’s show at Plush in Jacksonville, Florida, veteran local promoter Peter “CC” Samms gets word that federal agents are refusing to allow the venue to open its doors due to another strange code technicality. The line grows outside as does police presence. A perplexed CC urges owner, Tom Fisher, to race down to the club and resolve whatever the “issue” is. Within 20 minutes of Tom’s arrival, the doors are open, the line is moving and the show jumps off without a hitch.

Buju Banton’s Rasta Got Soul US Tour arrives in Tampa for a date at Cuban Club. At the exact moment Buju takes the stage, federal agents pop up and demand the production staff to immediately lower the music or get shut down for violating sound ordinance laws. The sound guys are puzzled by this outlandish request since the spot is located in an industrial area of Ybor City that is virtually isolated after hours. Nevertheless, they comply and the show continues.

Buju Banton’s Rasta Got Soul US Tour successfully wraps at club Destiny in Orlando, Florida. Closing night guests include Wayne Wonder for “Movie Star,” Gramps Morgan for “Psalm 23” and Bunny Rugs of Third World who joins Buju onstage for a rare performance of their collaboration “Sense Of Purpose,” also featured on the Rasta Got Soul album.

Despite early stumbling blocks, the tour proves unstoppable with close to 30,000 fans taking in 32 shows across the country. Buju Banton’s Rasta Got Soul Tour is the biggest selling Reggae package of 2009.

Buju Banton is nominated for a Grammy Award for Rasta Got Soul . Despite it being Buju’s fourth time being recognized by the Recording Academy over the years, gay activists launch a petition to get the Academy to rescind his well-deserved nod. A representative for the Academy releases a strong public statement in defense of Buju Banton.

“The Recording Academy and the Grammy Awards have a long history of supporting freedom of speech and creative expression, and of supporting artists and the music they create… It takes tolerance to teach tolerance, and it is through dialogue and debate that social discovery may occur. The Grammy Awards is a celebration and recognition of outstanding musical achievement by music makers, regardless of politics, and that will continue to be our mission.”

At approximately 2:00pm on Thursday, five DEA agents descend on the South Florida townhouse of Jamaican music icon Buju Banton and present an outstanding warrant for his arrest. He is whisked away in an unmarked black vehicle and taken to Federal Detention Center (FDC) in downtown Miami where he is booked.

With hands and feet shackled, Buju, wearing a green, prison two-piece, makes his Initial Appearance in front of Magistrate Judge Robert L. Dube’ at the US District Court (Southern District of Florida) in Miami. As is customary, the icon is remanded for temporary Pre-Trial Detention and prepares to spend his first weekend in jail. Magistrate Judge Dube’ sets the Detention/Bond Hearing for the following Wednesday in Miami.

Rumors of Buju’s arrest causes pandemonium in Jamaica and sends shockwaves around the globe. By the wee hours of Saturday morning, the devastating news hits the press. With little to no information about the case and no apparent interest in doing actual research on Buju Banton’s background and stature as a music icon, most mainstream coverage is reduced to one-sided and inaccurate rhetoric about his enduring struggles with the gay community.

AP continues to erroneously report via their worldwide wire service that Buju’s early ‘90s hit song ‘Batty Rider’ “glorifies the shooting of gay men” when in reality the tune only “glorifies” the skintight short-shorts worn by hot gals in the dancehall back in the day. The Miami Herald, a paper that has covered Buju for years should know and do better, right? Wrong. Here’s the first three lines of a recent cover story: “Internationally known Reggae star. Gay basher. Grammy nominee.” Rewind! Gay basher? What ever happened to fact checking?

FDC in Miami is crawling with lawyers jockeying to meet with Buju and convince him to hire them. Over the next few days, more than 40 attorneys slink up into the prison with their situation analyses and enthusiastic sales pitches. In classic Banton form, he “hires” them all and leaves the firing to management.

Back in lock up, Buju spends most of his free time reading, writing, exercising and reasoning with the young inmates. He meets a couple of Jamaican nationals, one who has no legal representation, so Buju coordinates efforts to secure and pay for his lawyer.

The Feds leak a copy of the affidavit in an orchestrated effort clearly aimed at causing doubt amongst Buju’s loyal fans, tainting the potential jury pool in Tampa and further assassinating his character in the public eye before going to trial. The media gobbles it up but Buju fans do not believe the hype. Representatives from the Jamaica Consulate in Miami pay an official visit to Buju at the prison.

Meanwhile, Buju’s manager and business partner, Tracii McGregor, begins meetings with potential attorneys to represent the legendary artist. At the top of her highly recommended list is Leonard Sands, Nathan Diamond, Jason Grey, Mark Panunzio, Roma Theus and fabled criminal defense lawyer, Frank Rubino, who analyzes: “This case is tryable, defendable and winnable.” Later that night, she receives several calls about a bright, young, powerhouse named David Oscar Markus.

A Grand Jury in Tampa indicts Buju Banton and two co-defendants (Ian Thomas and James Mack) for 1) allegedly conspiring to possess with intent to distribute five kilograms or more of a mixture and substance containing a detectable amount of cocaine, in violation of Title 21, United States Code, Section 846 and 2) aiding and abetting each other and knowingly and intentionally possessing a firearm in furtherance of, and carrying a firearm during the course of a drug trafficking crime, in violation of title 18, United States Code, Section 924(c). These types of federal crimes carry a controversial mandatory minimum penalty of 10-20 years to life.

The Sentencing Project, a national organization working for a fair and effective criminal justice system reports:

“At the Federal level, prisoners incarcerated on a drug charge comprise half of the prison population, while the number of drug offenders in state prisons has increased thirteen-fold since 1980. Most of these people are not high-level actors in the drug trade, and most have no prior criminal record for a violent offense.”

Buju makes his second court appearance, this time in front of Magistrate Judge William C. Turnoff. He exudes royalty, even in a dulling, beige state-issued jumpsuit. The place is a mad house of mostly attorneys, including Herbert Walker III, the bumbling, former state prosecutor who surreptitiously lists his name on the court docket as “Buju’s permanent attorney”; heavyweight Frank Rubino, who stops by after meeting with Buju earlier that morning; Christopher Lyons, the attorney who is actually hired to handle the second hearing, but summarily edged out by Walker who makes a scene and refuses to hand over the case, citing the official docket.

The proceeding moves quickly since Buju waives his right to a Detention/Bond Hearing in Miami, opting to go straight to Tampa. After court, McGregor walks a few blocks down the street for a two-hour meeting of the minds with David Markus. His parting words resonate deeply: “We will win this.”

Frank Rubino pulls some strings and gets Buju’s manager approved to go inside the prison for a One Time Visit. She immediately expresses concern that the boss, who abides by a strict vegetarian diet, is not eating as he’s visibly dropped some weight off his already slight frame.

Buju admits he hasn’t been too inclined to touch the prison slop, dining instead on bread and water. He tries to assure her that he is doing fine under the circumstances, then runs down a list of things that need to be taken care of on the outside, and imparts love to his devoted fans, family and friends.

Gargamel Music label breaks silence. Buju’s manager grants first and only interview since his arrest to CaribWorldNews.com. She proclaims: “It’s on and poppin’!”

Phone calls and emails continue to pour in from all parts of the globe. Aware of the acutely exorbitant legal fees that will be associated with bringing a case of this magnitude to trial, several patrons start to pledge monetary support for Buju Banton’s defense. Fans can buy official Free Buju T-Shirts and proceeds will also go towards Buju Banton’s defense.

Buju is pleasantly surprised to learn that Dancehall legend, Shabba Ranks, has put $100 USD down on his commissary.

David Markus somehow manages to swing a second One Time Visit for Buju’s manager. This time Buju is much more energetic and optimistic. His commissary has kicked in and he is now able to buy and cook up his own food. She brings him up to speed on a few business-related matters and then they pore over their options for attorneys. So, this is Christmas?

Buju Banton spends Christmas day behind bars at Miami Federal Detention Center. He is reflective and sentimental but in good spirits. In the evening, Buju speaks with a few of his children, family and close friends who remind the Gargamel just how much he is loved and missed.

Buju uses up his allotted 300 minutes in phone time for the month. He must now wait until the New Year to make outside calls.

In the two week period since the arrest, sales of Buju Banton’s Grammy-nominated album Rasta Got Soul double and the critically acclaimed project swiftly re-enters Billboard magazine’s Top Reggae Albums Chart at #15.

Buju Banton spends the last day of 2009 in federal custody. He currently awaits transfer to Tampa.

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