Jamaican reggae star, Mark Anthony Myrie popularly called Buju Banton has been released from a federal prison in Georgia.
Banton, who was convicted in a Tampa courtroom in 2011 on federal drug charges for illegal possession of a firearm and conspiracy to possess cocaine with intent to distribute, was freed Friday from Georgia’s private McMcRae Correctional Institute, a prison official told the Tampa Bay Times.
The 45-year-old music star was to return to his native Jamaica. A video of a man reported to be Banton boarding a plane was published on Twitter on Friday and #freebuju hashtags were all over social media.
Born Mark Myrie, he served seven years in federal prison in one of the most high-profile cases tried in the Sam M. Gibbons United States Courthouse in downtown Tampa.
He was sentenced to 10 years, a prison term his attorneys appealed to be reduced a year later, citing his “limited participation” in the drug operation that led to his December 2009 bust.
Banton is one of the well-known reggae artists in Jamaica, where he’s considered a big name in the same genre of music that features icons such as Bob Marley. His popularity among reggae fans led to his collaboration with international US artists such as Busta Rhymes and Fat Joe.
After his release, rap artist P. Diddy posted a message on Instagram. “Today is a glorious day. Buju is free. Let’s go!” he said.
The Jamaica Observer reported that Banton returned home over the weekend, where crowds of fans gathered at the airport to await his arrival. His friend and manager told the paper that Banton decided not to use the regular airport exit because he did not want to be mobbed. “He felt the crowd was too big, and Buju had already been harassed by the dozens of passengers who traveled home with him by taking pictures and videoing him, and asking questions on his way back home,” Donovan Germain said. The musician went to the studio from the airport, and is looking forward to performing early next year, he added.