It has been five long years since reggae super-star Buju Banton was busted by law enforcement in a shady operation that resulted in a ten-year prison sentence. The Grammy winner -- born Mark Myrie -- has maintained his innocence, and as we documented in a 2012 feature, it appears Banton was set-up by overzealous federal agents using paid shifty informants. But Banton is now one step closer to freedom.
Earlier this year in February, rockstar Harvard law professor Charles Ogletree filed an appeal for Banton with the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta. The document argued for a new trial for Banton; due to juror misconduct uncovered by former New Times staff writer Chris Sweeney, the judge in Banton's second federal trial had tossed one of the singer's convictions. Ogletree's motion maintains that the misconduct tainted the whole works, and therefore the entire trial should be tossed.
Last week, Ogletree argued his position in Atlanta. According to RedCarpetShelley.com, the attorney had 15 minutes to detail his reasons before a three-judge panel: Susan Black, Charles Wilson, and Robin Rosenbaum. The U.S. Attorney's Linda McNamara used her minutes to argue the trial had not been compromised.
RedCarpetShelley.com also reports that government attorneys also "stated if the case were remanded and a new trial granted, the U.S. Attorneys office would not pursue that option" -- which basically means Banton would walk free.
Last week's hearing wasn't the only piece of news in the Banton case. The incarcerated recording artist has also filed a recent motion asking for his prison sentence to be reconsidered in light of new sentencing rules.
The US Sentencing Commission has recently slashed the prison time handed out for drug offenses by two levels. The move -- known as Drugs Minus 2 -- will take effect November 1, 2015, and can apply retroactively.
Banton's filing argues that his sentence would be dropped down to 92 months under the new guidelines. However, Banton's sentence is the minimum mandatory sentence put in place by congress, and the only way to slash time off a minimum mandatory is to cooperate with law enforcement or to give a full confession -- unlike for a prisoner who has steadfastly maintained his innocence.