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Feb 20, 2011

Reggae Star Buju Banton Faces Life In Prison

Jamaican reggae star Buju Banton faces life in prison at his retrial on federal drug trafficking charges in Florida.
Buju Banton is accused of conspiring to buy cocaine from an undercover officer and faces life in prison.
Jury selection will begin on Monday in Tampa after the jury deadlocked in the first trial in September.
Banton, 37, said he was entrapped by a confidential informant and got in over his head.  He was led to believe the man could help in his music career.
The reggae star was arrested in a sting operation in December 2009.
Banton reportedly conspired with two associates to buy cocaine from an undercover agent.  The other two men pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with investigators. Their sentencing hearings are scheduled next month.
“Buju is not guilty. The number of charges doesn’t change that,” Banton’s attorney, David Markus, stated. “The prosecution wasn’t happy with the first trial, so now it is trying to throw as many charges against the wall in the hopes something sticks.”
Banton’s lawyer said his client is a victim of being entrapped by an informant who’s been paid $3.3 million for working with law enforcement for several years.
Buju testifed in court that he talked a lot about cocaine with the informant, Alexander Johnson. But he said he only wanted to impress the man, who claimed to have music industry connections. He said he had no interest in buying or selling drugs.
“I talk too much, but I am not a drug dealer,” Banton said on the stand.
Banton’s 2010 album “Before the Dawn” is nominated for a Grammy award Sunday night. The album’s 10 songs were recorded in Kingston, Jamaica, before Banton’s arrest.
In an email, Banton thanked his fans for their support and celebrated his fifth Grammy nomination.
“‘Before The Dawn’ is a prophetic album and if it happens to win I am grateful,” Banton said. “If it doesn’t, I still say thanks for the appreciation and the recognition because music is an art form that cannot be denied by any living soul. Music is my life.”
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