Buju, whose real name is Mark Anthony Myrie, will be sentenced on Thursday (23rd June) at a Federal Court in Tampa, Florida. The sentence comes four months after Banton’s conviction on drug-related charges in February.
In an interview on Sunday June 19th Jamaica Observer spoke with friends and supporters, who expressed nervousness about the possibility of him going to prison for an extended period, they also mentioned their concern and emotional as well as financial well-being of Banton’s 15 children.
“I just hope the judge doesn’t give him a long time in prison,” said reggae promoter and friend Hopie Miller, who lives in Florida.
“I’m anxious. You know how it is with me when it comes to Buju.”
Miller said she visited Banton in lock-up on two occasions, where she broke down in tears and had to be consoled by the artiste.
Worry over Banton’s sentencing has reached a fever pitch since federal district Judge James S Moody Jr pushed back the original June 16 date.
“I’m very anxious. All the experts are saying a lot of things. I hear a lot of talk, but you don’t know what will happen because they are not the judge,” said close friend O’niel Dunkley who resides in Florida.
“It’s something we talk about a lot… I don’t think he deserves what is coming to him, it’s not like he was a drug pusher or anything. I feel bad for his kids.”
A friend of Buju’s from California, who goes by the name Nicole Rasta, added: “I feel stressed, exhausted and sorry for him. I feel like I lose someone close to my heart. And not even that, who is going to take care of his children?”
Banton’s convicted charges include, conspiracy to distribute five or more kilogrammes of cocaine, possession of a firearm in the furtherance of a drug-trafficking crime and using the wires to facilitate a drug-trafficking offence.
His conviction was followed by an initial trial in September of last year which ended without the jurors being able to reach a verdict.
The artiste was arrested in December 2009, resulting from a covert operation.
Banton faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years. However, his legal team, led by David Oscar Markus, is seeking a sentence below the mandatory minimum.
On Sunday June 19th, Markus told the Jamaica Observer: “Buju remains optimistic and hopeful. He is a true warrior, from the days of the old school. I won’t stop fighting for him.”
The week before last, renowned actors, athletes and fellow performers joined Banton’s children in making an impassioned plea for leniency in handing down his sentence. Among them were American actor Danny Glover, NBA player Etan Thomas, Vibe Magazine editor-at-large Rob Kenner and reggae artiste Stephen Marley.
(Parts of this article were written with content submitted in jamaica observer publication)