Grammy-winning singer Buju Banton
checked out some cocaine put some on his finger and tasted it — all of it
caught on law enforcement video inside a Florida warehouse. Now he has another
chance to explain why.
Three African American women are among 12 jurors, who will decide the fate of
Jamaica’s Reggae star whose 2010 album “Before the Dawn” just captured Grammy for best reggae album.
The trial underway in Tampa, comes five months after a
previous jury hung on federal drug trafficking charges that could put him in
prison for life.
Banton, whose real name is Mark
Myrie, claims he was entrapped by a confidential informant and got in over his
head while trying to impress the man, who implied he could help Banton’s music
The U.S. government says Banton conspired with
two associates to buy a shipment of cocaine from an undercover officer.
The two other men pleaded guilty
and agreed to cooperate with investigators. Their sentencing hearings are
scheduled next month.
Banton, 37, was arrested in
December 2009 at his Miami-area home.
He remained in Pinellas County Jail
until November, when another Jamaican singer, Stephen Marley, reggae legend Bob
Marley’s son, posted his South Florida home as bond.
Banton has been on house arrest
except for a Miami concert last month to raise money for legal expenses.
Federal prosecutors initially
charged Banton with drug conspiracy and gun charges, and in November added two
more drug-related charges.
“Buju is not guilty. The
number of charges doesn’t change that,” Banton’s attorney, David Markus,
said in an e-mail.
“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.”
During his first trial, the
Rastafarian singer, his long dreadlocks tied in a braid, testified that he
talked a lot about cocaine with the informant, Alexander Johnson.
But he said he was only trying 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.
There are eight men and four women on the jury.