Buju Banton's co-accused Ian Thomas released from prison


IAN Thomas, one of the co-conspirators in the Buju Banton drug case, has been released from federal prison.

Thomas — who the Federal Bureau of Prisons' website said was released on August 23 — and James Mack were held in a police-controlled warehouse in Tampa, Florida , attempting to purchase a large quantity of cocaine from undercover Drug Enforcement Agents. A quantity of cash and an illegal pistol were later found in a car Mack was driving at the time.

That same day Banton, whose right name is Mark Myrie, was arrested at his home in Tamarac, South Florida.

Mack and Thomas both pleaded guilty to drug trafficking charges and agreed to testify against the Jamaican entertainer in exchange for lesser sentences.

Mack, who is currently serving time in a federal prison in Sacramento, California, is slated for release on November 11 this year.

Banton has been adamant that he is innocent of the charges and despite being sentenced to 10 years is fighting for a new trial after the jury foreperson in his second trial, Teri Wright, was found guilty of contempt of court after it was revealed that she had disobeyed an order from Magistrate James Moody not to study any aspect of the law as it related to Banton's case.

Banton is seeking to ask a US court to throw out his guilty verdict on the grounds that the jury was tainted.

In the meantime, the Buju Banton Defence Support Committee, in a release yesterday, said it remained at a loss in understanding how the foreperson of the jury could be found in contempt of court during the trial and follow-up hearing, yet only one of that jury's decisions was thrown out.

And the committee -- an international group of Banton's friends and civil rights activists — yesterday denied a local media report that the imprisoned entertainer has retained his former lawyer, David Oscar Markus on his legal team.

"That information is false. David Markus is not on Buju's legal team. Buju's new Attorney is Charles Ogletree of Harvard University. He is the sole attorney representing Mark," the group said in a release.

Attorney Chukwe Lumumba, who had replaced Marcus, was in June this year forced to recuse himself after he was elected mayor of Jackson, Mississippi. He, however, assisted the committee in securing the services of Charles Ogletree Jr to represent the Jamaican entertainer.

Ogletree is director of the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He founded and became director of the school's Criminal Justice Institute in 1990.

Banton was on August 24 sent to the FTC prison in Oklahoma, from where he will be transferred to another federal prison to serve his time.

He was previously locked up at the FCI penal institution in Miami, Florida but when the evidentiary hearings into Wright's misconduct began last year he was transferred to the Pinellas County Jail in Tampa.

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