9 years, 10 months Buju Banton is a free man

December 10, 2018

Getty Images: Scott Eells / Stringer

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Mark Myrie,  Buju Banton is also known around the world as Gargamel is a free man and in Jamaica. 

Rising from Kingston as a teenager with hit songs like "Browning", "Black Woman" and "Batty Rider". At one point haveing 5 songs in the top 10 in Jamaica in the early 90s. Starting out as a dancehall artist he grew and progressed and became a cultural icon and song writer, but never leaving dancehall behind. Landmark albums like "'Til Shiloh" and "Inna Hieghts" solidified Buju's iconic stature in the world of reggae around the world. He later released "Too Bad" full dancehall album. His most recent release "Before The Dawn" with earned him a Grammy Award 2011. He released 12 albums in all.

Buju Banton hit controvesy with his song "Boom Bye Bye" which became an anthem for hardcore dancehall fans globally which featured some anti-gay lyrics. When Buju was 16 years old, a  young boy was raped in his district and inspired him to write this song.

He caught the eye of the US Gay Community and they targeted him and started making life difficult. Later the International Gay Community targeted 8 dancehall artists which Buju was a part along with Bounty Killer, Beenieman, Capleton, TOK and a few others. 

The US government hired an informant to in the eyes of many to entrap Buju Banton. They placed the informant on two cross atlantic flights and sat him next to Buju Banton. The informant talked a good game and said he had links in the recording industry. Buju never followed up in contacting the informant. The informant which which had been given over a million dollars for all his informant work not just this case by the government kept on contacting Buju. After many attempts to entice Buju into a money making scheme, Buju went to the ill fated government sponsored warehouse. 

In December 2009, Drug Enforcement Administration agents remanded Banton to custody in Miami, where the U.S. Attorney charged him with conspiracy to distribute and possession of more than five kilograms of cocaine. Banton was then moved to the Pinellas County Jail where he remained until trial. A six-day trial in Tampa, Florida was declared a mistrial on 27 September 2010, after the jury was unable to reach a unanimous decision. During the trial, audio recordings were presented of Banton and a drug-dealer-turned-government-informant discussing drugs, drug prices and smuggling. Banton was also seen on a video recording meeting the informant in a police-controlled warehouse tasting cocaine from a kilogram bag. The informant was reportedly paid $50,000 for his work on the case. The singer was released that November on bond. Stephen Marley put up his house as bond his friend and fellow artist.

He was allowed to perform one concert between trials, which was held on 16 January 2011 to a sold-out crowd in Miami. We were at that concert and Buju put on a performance of a life time with guests Gramps Morgan and Stephen Marley, Freddie Mcgregor, Marcia Griffiths, Everton Blender and a host of others joined the benefit.

On 22 February 2011, Banton was found guilty of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute five or more kilograms of cocaine, possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug-trafficking offense and using communication wires to facilitate a drug-trafficking offense. He was found not guilty on the charge of attempted possession of five kilograms or more of cocaine. Four months later, he was sentenced to ten years and one month in a federal prison for the cocaine trafficking conviction. His sentencing on a related firearms conviction (despite the fact that Banton was never found with a gun) was scheduled for 30 October 2012, and then postponed on his lawyer's request for an investigation of possible juror misconduct. Despite the fact that a juror was found guilty of misconduct, Buju Banton waived his right to an appeal. On 14 May 2015 federal prosecutors agreed to drop the firearms charge.

Banton was released on 7 December 2018 released two months early for good behaviour. 

Mark Myrie was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison  and did most of time at Georgia’s private McMcRae Correctional Institute. His sentence was cut short by two months in 2016.

Videos surfaced on the internet of Buju Banton being released from federal custody from a SUV on the tarmac in Atlanta and boarding a flight back home to Kingston. Then later more videos and photos of him passing through the Kingston airport with Jamaican officials and fans. Later a photo surfaced of him and daughter embracing with joy at his home.  He wore white for his homecoming and later was photgraphed with his long dreadlocks with his longtime producer Donovan Germain who will be reuinted with Gargamel. 

King Buju flew home from Atlanta to Kingston, Jamaica where he was greeted with a large crowd of Buju Banton supporters and well wishers. He is home with his family and will be keeping a low profile. He has music ready to release and was seen in the studio over the weekend. Buju said he has rested for 10 years and is ready to work.