Popular Jamaican sing-jay Busy Signal's 2008 gritty hit single "Nah Go A Jail Again" has taken on a renewed significance for the artist.
On September 21, Busy Signal, born Glendale Gordon, was fined $30,000 and sentenced to six months in prison by Minnesota State District Court Judge Donovan W. Frank for absconding bail related to drug trafficking charges brought against him 10 years ago. In March 2002 the Minnesota District Court Case no. 0:02-cr-00054-JMR-FLN: USA v. Gordon charged Glendale Gordon, at the time a resident alien in the US, with one count of Conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute cocaine, three counts of conspiracy to distribute cocaine (level 4) and a third charge of possession with intent to distribute cocaine. 'Level 4' is an indicator of conspiracy to distribute five or more kilograms.
In a Minnesota courtroom on July 19 Gordon pled guilty to removing his ankle bracelet-tracking device and fleeing to Jamaica ten years ago; the drug charges still remain but according to the artist's Jamaica-based lawyer, KD Knight, U.S. authorities do not have the jurisdiction to prosecute him on those counts under the current extradition treaty between the US and Jamaica. Gordon has already served four months -- a month in Kingston's General Penitentiary and three months in Minnesota's Sherbourne County Jail -- with a release date set for November 21.
"Busy felt like he was in prison for the last 10 years; all he could think about when he went to sleep was this situation so today is a milestone for us because now he is mentally free," said his manager Shane Brown, the CEO of Kingston's Juke Boxx Productions, on the phone from Minnesota minutes after the sentence was handed down. Brown is the primary producer on Busy's most recent album, the critically lauded Reggae Music Again (VP Records). With it's lush, live instrumentation celebrating roots rock reggae as it flaunts Busy's nuanced singing and rapid fire deejayed rhymes, Reggae Music Again debuted at no. 6 on the Top Reggae Album chart for the week of April 28th and remained on the tally for 16 weeks.
On May 21, law-enforcement agents from the US, the United Kingdom and Jamaica served Gordon with an extradition warrant in Kingston as he disembarked a flight arriving from the UK following the completion of a European tour. After waiving his right to a hearing in Jamaica, he was extradited on June 19 and has remained in the Sherbourne County Jail.
Under Minnesota's sentencing guidelines Gordon could have received a 12-18 month term; Brown credits the diligence of Gordon's Minnesota-based attorney William Mauzy for the reduced time. A week prior to the sentencing hearing Mauzy flew to Jamaica and filmed interviews with veteran singer Marcia Griffiths (who appears in the "Reggae Music Again" video), Busy's pastor, grandmother and teachers at Busy's alma mater Brown's Town High School where, in 2009, the artist furnished the school's computer lab providing 12 computers and accessories. Their comments were compiled into a DVD testimonial, which included clips of Busy performing in Gambia in front of 60,000 fans at a 2010 concert and Jamaica's RE TV (Reggae Entertainment Television) 2011 High School Tour where he spoke to students about abstinence from sex and HIV awareness.
Judge Frank privately viewed the DVD two days prior to the sentencing hearing. "The judge was really impressed with what Busy has done with his life in the past 10 years since becoming an artist, the fact that he has never been in trouble with the law in Jamaica, and he took those things into consideration before handing down the sentence," Brown explained. "The judge wants him to do more community service work in Jamaica and we have established the Busy Signal Foundation, which will assist in the educational needs of underprivileged children," Brown continued. "The judge also wants him to enjoy the freedom to pursue his career, so it's important he keeps doing music of substance like his last album."
Upon his return to Jamaica Busy has to wait two years to apply for a U.S. Visa/work permit. However, by law, he is allowed to remain in the states for 45 days following the completion of his Minnesota sentence. During that time Brown and VP Records will step up promotions of Reggae Music Again, thus maximizing the attention Busy is currently receiving for spiritedly trading verses with Gwen Stefani on the (Major Lazer-produced) title track to No Doubt's recently released album Push and Shove (Interscope).
Brown is currently consulting with Attorney Mauzy and Judge Frank to determine Busy's eligibility for working in the US upon his release. If permission is granted, concerts could take place in New York and Miami as well as other cities, marking the first time Busy has ever performed in the U.S. "Since Friday's sentencing, we were offered 20 shows by a US promoter," Brown said, although he wouldn't offer more details. "America is a very important market for reggae artists," Brown added, "and with this sentencing, it opens the door for Busy to try to come back and be heard by a wider audience."