Monday, March 22, 2010
BUJU BANTON RECEIVE INHUMANE TREATEMENT IN PRISON DECRIES LAWYER
TAMPA - Grammy-nominated reggae singer Buju Banton is being treated "inhumanely" in the Pinellas County Jail as he awaits trial on federal drug charges, his lawyer said in a court filing.
Because he "had the audacity to share his food with another inmate," Banton was placed Thursday in a maximum security wing where he is unable to prepare the vegetarian diet he requires for religious purposes, according to defense attorney David Oscar Markus.
Pinellas sheriff's spokesman Sgt. Tom Nestor said Banton was disciplined because he was "using food as currency." He said inmates are told such behavior is prohibited.
Nestor also said the jail does not have a maximum security wing, but that Banton is in an area known as "close custody," which has increased monitoring.
Banton, whose real name is Mark Myrie, was arrested in Miami in December and transferred in January to the Pinellas County Jail, which holds federal prisoners awaiting trial. He is being held without bail on charges of conspiring to distribute cocaine and aiding and abetting his co-defendants in possessing a firearm during the course of cocaine distribution.
Markus is asking a federal judge to release his client on bail. Failing that, Markus requested that Banton be moved to a "non-maximum security" wing.
He said Banton's "mental and physical health has been rapidly deteriorating," and that the transfer has hindered his ability to prepare for his April 19 trial.
Banton, who is from Jamaica, previously had been allowed to prepare his own food using items purchased in the commissary. He "is now in amaximum security wing for caring enough to offer food to another inmate who was hungry, and genuinely believing there was nothing wrong in doing so," Markus wrote.
Markus said his client "is being punished for who he is." He said the transfer decision was made by a corporal "who has had it out for Mr. Myrie during his entire stay."
Markus' court filing includes a modified quote from the novel "The Trial," by Franz Kafka:
The "guiding principle [of the Pinellas county jail] is this: guilt is never to be doubted. Other courts cannot follow that principle, for they consist of several opinions and have higher courts to scrutinize them. This is not the case here."
SOURCE: TAMPA BAY ONLINE