Buju Banton’s 2nd trial on drug charges begins

Question of the Day

Is it still considered bad form to talk politics during a social gathering?

View results

TAMPA, FLA. (AP) - Less than a day after winning a Grammy for best reggae album, popular Jamaican singer Buju Banton was on trial again Monday, accused of conspiring to buy cocaine from an undercover officer.

This is the second trial for Banton, whose real name is Mark Myrie. His first was a mistrial when a jury deadlocked in September.

Assistant U.S. Attorney James Preston told jurors Banton and a friend negotiated with a U.S. government informant to buy cocaine in 2009. She also told them that Banton did not put any money in the deal or receive any money.

Banton, who is 37, allegedly met with the informant and an undercover officer in Sarasota in early December to discuss buying the drugs, Preston said, and that meeting was videotaped.

Drug Enforcement Administration agents recorded the singer inspecting the cocaine and tasting it with his finger Dec. 8, 2009, Preston said. His co-defendant, Ian Thomas, gave the undercover officer $135,000 worth of cocaine Dec. 10; he has pleaded guilty to drug charges.

Banton was not present for the Dec. 10 drug deal _ he was at home in South Florida _ but he “took a substantial step” in committing the crime by helping negotiate the deal, Preston said.

Banton’s attorney, David Markus, said his client did not participate in a conspiracy to sell cocaine and said there was no evidence to link Banton to any of the other charges.

“He never, ever wanted to be part of that drug deal,” Markus said.

Banton is charged with conspiracy to possess and distribute cocaine and aiding two others in possessing a firearm during the course of cocaine distribution.

During his first trial, Banton testified that he talked a lot about cocaine with the government informant, but he was only trying to a man who claimed to have music industry connections.

The trial will continue Tuesday. Prosecutors are expected to call the informant to the witness stand. He is a convicted cocaine smuggler who has earned $3.3 million working for U.S. law enforcement.

Banton will also testify during the trial, Markus said.

“He has more number one singles than Bob Marley and he won the Grammy,” Markus said. “This isn’t a person who was a drug dealer.”

His 2010 album “Before the Dawn” won the Grammy for best reggae album Sunday.

In a statement, Banton said winning the Grammy shows that his music transcends borders and “people are now paying attention to what I’m saying in-depth.”

Story Continues →

View Entire Story

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Comments
blog comments powered by Disqus
TWT Video Picks