Dancehall and Reggae Music Artistes vs the Law

It has become commonplace for many of our beloved Jamaican entertainers to have run-ins with the law.

While it may not be anything new, there appears to be more cases over the last few years in which our popular entertainers have been slapped with charges than in the past.

Artistes Vybz Kartel, Buju Banton, Flippa Mafia, Zebra and Shawn Storm, as well as selector ZJ Wah Wa are now behind bars for various crimes.

There are also other persons such as Ninja Man, Elephant Man, Tommy Lee Sparta, Admiral Bailey and Dexta Daps who also have cases before the courts.

Dr Donna Hope, director and senior lecturer at the Institute of Caribbean Studies and the Reggae Studies Unit at University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona, believes that more entertainers are involved in crime today than a decade ago.

"We are having a lot more now than 15 years ago. Maybe it's more reporting being done, but it seems that way. It's a cause for concern because they are more visible, which makes it damaging to the industry," Hope said.

The cultural analyst said the involvement of artistes in crime is due to the informal nature of dancehall music, where there are no real requirements or qualifications for entry.

"The dancehall culture is an informal culture. A lot of individuals with shady background enter the realms because they have access to a microphone, and when they rise to stardom some continue the illicit practice," she said.

"Dancehall doesn't have a gatekeeper. Entertainers have always been associated with individuals who are not working with the law like a good citizen."

Hope added that dancehall is a male-dominated arena and men are more likely to take significant risks.

She also called for the artistes to be more careful so that the industry doesn't get tarnished.

When THE WEEKEND STAR spoke with no-nonsense crime fighter, Senior Superintendent Steve McGregor, he said the regular arrest of artistes is not in any way due to the police targeting them.

"The dancehall scene is closely linked to people who are involved in gangs and criminal activities. It is the stomping ground for criminals, the lyrics, the communities they hail from, turf wars and so on. There are some artistes who take themselves away from it, sometimes it's to their detriment. It's a new culture and it's a social problem," McGregor said.

Below is a list of entertainers who are either serving time or appearing before the courts.

ZEBRA:

After completing a six-year sentence in 2008 for carnal abuse, deejay Zebra was again sentenced to 30 years' imprisonment in 2010 for similar charges.

BUJU BANTON:

Mark 'Buju Banton' Myrie, was arrested on December 10, 2009, in Florida, United States, and charged with intent to distribute cocaine. He was sentenced to 10 years.

FLIPPA MAFIA:

Flippa Mafia, born Andrew Davis, is facing conspiracy to distribute cocaine, leading a narcotics organisation, possession with intent to distribute cocaine and money laundering charges. Arrested in September 2013, if convicted, he faces 25 years to life in prison. Flippa's trial is due to start this month, after his pre-trial was halted in March because of a snowstorm.

ELEPHANT MAN:

After several years of postponement due to a backlog of cases and missing files, the rape trial involving dancehall artiste Elephant Man was set to get under way on July 6 inside the Home Circuit Court. The outcome of the trial is still pending.

NINJA MAN:

January 11, 2016 has been set as the new trial date for Ninja Man, born Desmond Ballentine. Ninja Man, along with three other persons, were charged with the 2009 murder of Richard Johnson in the Mall Road area of Kingston.

TOMMY LEE SPARTA:

Tommy Lee Sparta was charged with suspected breaches of the Law Reform Fraudulent Transaction (Special Provisions) Act, 2013. He was among several persons arrested in New Kingston in February last year, after police raided a house on Lady Musgrave Road. He's currently out on $400,000 bail. Tommy Lee is to stand trial in the matter in October.

ZJ WAH WA:

The trial involving radio disc jock ZJ Wah Wa in the Federal District Court in Bismarck, North Dakota, did not begin as scheduled on May 18. A new trial date has not been ascertained. ZJ Wah Wa, real name Deon-ville O'Hara, is charged with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, wire fraud and money laundering conspiracy. If convicted, Wah Wa faces a maximum 30-year imprisonment per count, a possible fine, mandatory restitution, and possible forfeiture of property.

ANJU BLAXX:

Producer Anju Blaxx is reportedly out on bail after being arrested in Florida on February 7 on mail and wire fraud charges in the Great Plains state of North Dakota.

VYBZ KARTEL:

Dancehall artiste, Vybz Kartel, real name Adidja Palmer, has been sentenced to life in prison for the murder of Clive 'Lizard' Williams. He was arrested in September 2011.

SHAWN STORM:

Dancehall entertainer Shawn Campbell, more popularly known as Shawn Storm, was convicted alongside Vybz Kartel for the murder of Williams. Shawn Storm was sentenced to life in prison.

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