AMPA, Fla. – A federal judge sentenced Grammy-winning reggae singer Buju Banton to 10 years in prison Thursday, the lowest sentence legally allowed for his role in a large cocaine trafficking deal in 2009.
The 38-year-old Jamaican recording artist got a break when U.S. District Judge James S. Moody threw out a gun conviction, which would have added another five years to the minimum sentence. Banton’s attorney, David Markus, said with time already served and good behavior, he could be out in six years.
In a statement he wrote after the sentencing, Banton — whose given name is Mark Myrie — thanked family, fans and supporters from around the world who flooded the court file with letters of support.
“The days that lie ahead are filled with despair, but I have courage and grace and I’m hopeful, and that is sufficient to carry me through,” he said in the statement, which was read by Markus. “The man is not dead. Don’t call him a ghost.”
Banton, dressed in gray jail scrubs and shackled at the ankles, did not speak in court and did not react when Moody announced the sentence. The tall, thin, dreadlocked singer blew a kiss and waved to his subdued supporters as he was led away.
In his Caribbean homeland of Jamaica, radio stations played his songs nonstop Thursday, including “Not an Easy Road” and “Untold Stories.”