Short immigration detention for Buju Banton - publicist
In just over a month, on December 8, reggae superstar Buju Banton will have served his 10-year sentence, and the Grammy Award winning artiste is reportedly keen to get back to doing what he does best – producing music and entertaining his throng of fans on stage.
Already, plans are afoot for a lengthy series of live appearances, dubbed the 'Long Walk to Freedom Tour and, according to his publicist, Ronnie Tomlinson, Banton has already put together a competent team to manage his affairs when he re-enters society and is anticipating an explosive return to the entertainment scene.
But Banton has had to ensure that, upon his release from US federal prison, he is sent back to the land of his birth with minimal hassle and the least possible time spent in the custody of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Banton has had his legal status to travel and work in the United States rescinded as a result of his drug conviction and has hired a legal team to ensure that, unlike other convicted felons, he is not held in the custody of immigration authorities for any extended period.
His publicist, Ronnie Tomlinson, said his lawyers had made legal maneuvers to circumvent that process and he is not fighting his immigration status.
“Buju has made sure that his stay with ICE will be as short as possible. He has opted for voluntary deportation. He should be home in very short order after his sentence ends,” she said.
Banton, whose real name is Mark Myrie, is said to be in good spirits and is anxiously awaiting the day he is no longer a guest of the United States penal system.
“Buju is in good spirits and is counting down the days, as we all are,” Tomlinson said.
His first live appearance is slated to take place in Jamaica with a date and venue to be announced, she added.
“A concert is being arranged for Jamaica. It will be promoted by his team in cooperation with other entities,” she said.
When he burst onto the scene, Buju Banton was guided by veteran artiste manager and producer Donovan Germain, and Tomlinson said the two were still in contact and are looking to resume their business relationship when he leaves prison.
At present, Buju is listed as inmate number 86700-004 in the McRae Correctional Institute located in Georgia.
He was arrested at his Tamarac, Florida home in January 2009 by Drug Enforcement Agents on suspicion of conspiracy to distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine. His first trial ended in a mistrial and he was found guilty after a second trial and slapped with a 10-year sentence.
He had one month reduced from his sentence after prosecutors dropped a firearm possession charge against him.
Banton has maintained his innocence and argued that he was the victim of entrapment. He claimed paid US government informant, Alex Johnson used the lure of lucrative music industry contacts to lure him into the drug deal and that he backed out of the deal before it went down.
Johnson has been reported as earning US$3.5 million as a confidential informant.
Federal prosecutors pinned their case on Banton tasting a substance in a government controlled warehouse in Tampa, Florida as evidence that he was involved in the illegal drug trade.
Banton’s co-defendants, James Mack and Ian Thomas, were arrested attempting to sell 20 kilograms of cocaine to federal agents in Tampa. Banton was arrested hours after.
Both Mack and Thomas copped plea deals and were given lighter sentences.
While Banton was languishing in prison, news broke that a lead juror in his trial had disobeyed an order by Judge James Moody that the case should not be researched and, after an investigation, the juror, Terry Wright, was convicted of contempt of court and given five months' probation.
He was also ordered to do 40 hours of community service, and research and write a paper on the cost to taxpayers of a six-day trial.