The litany of legal problems facing incarcerated dancehall artist Vybz Kartel is mounting almost as quickly as he used to record hit songs.
On December 15th, Jamaica's Supreme Court judge Martin Gayle ordered Kartel, born Adidja Palmer, to pay JA$15,000,000 (US$173,066) in damages to Jamaican promoter Alton Salmon stemming from his failure to perform at a concert on August 14, 2009 in the Turks and Caicos islands, located 550 miles southeast of Miami, just below the Bahamas chain. According to the Jamaica Gleaner newspaper, Salmon entered into a verbal contract with Kartel and agreed to pay him $18,000 to perform at The Real Rampin Shop concert, it's title adapted from the early 2009 Kartel hit "Rampin Shop, which peaked at no. 76 on the Hip Hop/R&B singles chart, ignited numerous debates surrounding censorship in dancehall reggae and prompted the banning of suggestive lyrics on Jamaica's TV and radio broadcasts. It was also agreed that Salmon would purchase airline tickets and provide hotel accommodations for Kartel and his entourage for the Turks and Caicos show.
Arguably Jamaica's most popular dancehall artist and once the authoritative leader of an artists' consortium and various businesses, including a successful line of rum, branded under the Portmore Empire brand but often referred to simply as Gaza, Kartel, 35, reportedly accepted a deposit of $8,500 from Salmon with the balance to be paid at the end of the show. But his failure to appear at Turks and Caicos event, Salmon explained, caused a riot at the venue and severely damaged his reputation as a promoter. Salmon filed a lawsuit against dancehall's self proclaimed "World Boss" in August 2009, accusing him of breach of contract. Kartel was served with legal documents pertaining to the suit on December 23, 2009 but he failed to file acknowledgement of service and did not attempt to defend the suit.
Although Salmon declined an interview request, he offered the following statement to Billboard.biz: "From the initial state of the case I always wanted it to be low profile but it became bigger than I thought. I can say that what you read in the newspaper is the truth so based on that you can get all of the information you want," Salmon stated.
The judgment was handed down just hours before Kartel and Gaza artist Vanessa Saddler, a.k.a. Vanessa Bling or Gaza Slim were charged by the Corporate Area Magistrate Court with conspiracy and attempting to pervert the course of justice, related to the murder of Clive "Lizard" Williams. Gaza Slim and fellow Portmore Empire artist Popcaan are included on Kartel's number one hit in Jamaica "Clarks" which was featured on Canadian television's dance competition "So You Think You Can Dance?"
On Oct. 24 Kartel was charged with Williams' murder, which purportedly took place on Aug. 16 although his body has not been found. On Oct. 29, Gaza Slim reported to Kingston's Constant Spring police precinct that she had been assaulted and robbed by Williams. Police sources maintain evidence exists, including phone texts, indicating Kartel and Gaza Slim planned to "stage a robbery that did not occur", in their attempt to prove Williams was alive, thus absolving Kartel from the murder charge. The prosecution maintains it has audio and video surveillance tapes implicating Kartel and five members of his Gaza Empire, including artist Shawn 'Shawn Storm' Campbell, in Williams' murder, allegedly a punishment for a missing illegal firearm believed to belong to Kartel. Storm, Gaza Slim and Popcaan are featured alongside the Gaza Emperor on the track "Empire ForEver".
Kartel's web of legal woes commenced on Sep't. 29th when he was arrested and subsequently charged with the murder of music promoter Barrington Bryan, alias 'Bossie', which took place in July 2011 in the Kingston suburb of Portmore. Kartel was also charged with conspiracy to murder and illegal possession of a firearm. He was granted bail in the sum of JA$3,000,000 (approximately US$34,613) on December 1 related to the Burton charges, but could not take up the offer due to the pending charges in Williams' death. Contrary to widespread reports that he would be freed by Christmas and possibly perform at Jamaica's annual dancehall concert extravaganza Sting on Dec. 26th, Kartel's legal counsel has not yet sought bail on the charges of perverting the course of justice and Williams' murder.
"The attorney that appeared for Miss Saddler did make a bail application for her and the judge will give her reasons in writing for her refusal for bail, based on the request made by the attorney," clarified Christopher Tavares-Finson, a member of Kartel's legal team, in his interview with Billboard.biz. "Whether we file a bail application or not depends on the documentation served on us. When we are in possession of all of the documents, including the text messages, then I would be in a position to make the application. It is possible we will make an application at the next hearing on January 9th."
Despite the numerous charges facing the Gaza ruler, Kartel and his lawyers remain confident about the outcome of his case. "We have to keep our heads up and have faith in the system. Based on what I am seeing in the documents, I don't think we have a problem," observes Tavares-Finson. "It is going to take a while to sort it out; Kartel has to be patient and he understands that. We keep him up to speed on everything that is happening with the matter."