March 23, 2010
BUJU PUNISHED FOR SHARING FOOD - LAWYER SAYS HE IS BEING TARGETED BY WARDERS
• An act of kindness by Jamaican reggae singer Buju Banton while being detained in the Pinellas County Jail in Florida has resulted in him being confined in the maximum security wing of the penal institution and has contributed to him losing around 40 pounds, according to his lawyer David Markus.
That's the claim included in an eight-page bond application filed to the United States District Court, Middle District of Florida, Tampa Division, on Sunday by Markus.
The court will hear Markus' emergency application for bond on Friday. Markus said he hopes to have Buju returned to the non-maximum security unit or have him transferred to immigration custody.
Buju and two alleged co-conspirators have been in custody in the United States since last December when they were charged with conspiracy to possess cocaine and aiding and abetting the carrying of a firearm during a drug-trafficking crime.
SHARED A MEAL
The lanky Rastafarian, who is a vegetarian, reportedly shared a meal with a fellow inmate, which is a violation, and was sent to the maximum security wing for at least 30 days. Markus said he was made aware of the situation on March 18.
Since being transferred, Markus said Buju, born Mark Myrie, has been unable to prepare his own meals and "has not been provided with a diet in accordance with his religious views".
In the bond application, Markus also intimated that his client might be the victim of personal attacks by the warders.
"Mr Myrie has been moved from floor to floor in the jail without explanation and treated differently than the other inmates. The decision to place Mr Myrie in a maximum security wing weeks before his upcoming trial suggests that something else is going on," said Markus in his application, which included a footnote naming a corporal "who has had it out for Mr Myrie during his entire stay".
The attorney added that the violation was a minor one not fitting the punishment and that "in sum, Mr Myrie is now in a maximum security wing for caring enough to offer food to another inmate who was hungry and genuinely believing there was nothing wrong in doing so".
Food and nutrition consultant Dr Heather Little-White said if Buju were not getting his desired meal, he could be losing an average of two pounds per week. This would result in his "mental frame not being as strong and he would become physically weak".
"He would also have deficiencies in vitamins and minerals and would need to be examined by a doctor. Until proven guilty, his likes and dislikes should be taken into account," said Little-White.
Markus said Buju's transfer to maximum security has been affecting his client mentally and physically and, by extension, the legal team's preparation for the start of his trial on April 19.
"For example, this week when counsel attempted to visit Mr Myrie, counsel was required to wait over two hours until he could see Mr Myrie," he stated in his application.
In a radio interview yesterday, Markus said the delay was a ploy to derail his team from winning the trial but that he was "optimistic and we are going to fight this".
Buju's arrest in Florida in December came at the tail end of a troublesome year, which included a number of cancelled concerts in the USA brought on by gay rights groups and an out-of-court settlement with former common-law wife Lorna Strachan after she filed a suit in the Supreme Court against him.