Less than a week before Buju Banton walks into a Tampa courtroom for re-sentencing on a gun charge, the reggae singer's attorney has asked the judge to reconsider the ten year sentence that he's currently serving on two drug charges.
It's the latest development in a drawn out and complex legal battle.
Here's a quick recap of how the gun charge has evolved for readers just venturing into the mix: Jurors found Buju guilty of two drug charges and the gun charge at the February 2011 retrial. Five months later, when sentencing came around, the judge dismissed the gun charge because Buju was no where near the gun, didn't know the guy who had brought the gun to a drug deal, which turned out to be a bust, and never even spoke with the guy.
But the government appealed the judge's decision to toss the gun charge, and won. It seemed inevitable that the original trial judge would have to add the mandatory minimum of five years to Buju's sentence, meaning that he would end up serving 15 years.
Earlier this month, however, New Times revealed that several juror members never wanted to find him guilty on the gun charge. Several jurors said that they were relieved when they found out the judge tossed it.
In this latest motion, attorney Chokwe Lumumba argues that the decision from the appeals court in Atlanta "does not alter the court's perception of the facts or of the defendant's behavior." Because the judge does have to add five years for the gun charge, Lumumba has asked that the sentence on the drug charges be lessened so that Buju essentially ends up serving the same amount of time as the judge originally intended, or maybe even less.
Accompanying the motion is a lengthy letter from David Oscar Markus, the defense attorney who represented Buju during the first two trials.
"I am writing this letter because I still lose sleep over the case and because I truly believe that [Buju] should not be sentenced to 15 years in prison," Markus writes, noting that he submitted the letter unbeknown to Buju.
Markus notes that jurors interviewed by New Times were relieved when the gun charge was dismissed "because they thought they were obligated to find [Buju] guilty even though they did not think he was."
"Fifteen years of prison for a first-time non-violent offender who has the support of his entire country and who has a history of charitable work is just way too much time," Markus writes.
He goes on to argue that the judge should sentence Buju to one day on the drug count and five years on the gun count.
While the tone of the letter is amicable and respectful, toward the end Markus does argue, "A sentence of five years and one day is still much more than is necessary in this case."
Buju is slated to appear in court next Tuesday.
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