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Innocent: New details emerge in Buju case

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15 FEB,2012

“Buju Banton is innocent” – New details emerge regarding events leading to Reggae star’s sentence

Many Jamaicans steadfastly believe that currently incarcerated Reggae superstar, Mark Myrie aka Buju Banton was entrapped by the United States government; leading to his subsequent conviction on drug-related charges last year. However, one American journalist has gone full-length to try and attach merit the aforementioned sentiment.

Chris Sweeney, a writer for the Miami New Times unveiled an in-depth, six-page piece on Tuesday, documenting the various events preceding Buju Banton’s arrest in December 2009 as well as his conviction last February on three drug charges. The piece speaks of how Buju met Alex Johnson, the lead informant in the Reggae superstar’s case who later accepted a plea deal in the case to avoid a lengthy jail sentence.

In the piece titled, Buju Banton Is Innocent, Sweeney details a flight that the Untold Stories singer took on July 26, 2009 from Madrid, Spain to Miami, Florida. On that flight, Buju met Johnson, who introduced himself as “Junior,” while claiming to know Lloyd Evans, a manager who’d long been an idol of the Reggae singjay. Buju, who was allegedly drunk at the time, was called over by Johnson prior to plane’s landing in Miami, where he showed Banton money that he made from illegal ventures. Buju responded by supposedly bragging about a drug ring he was involved in that had roots in South America and Europe.

Hours after the flight, Johnson and Buju met again at a restaurant where a conversation between the two was secretly recorded by Johnson. Again involved in heavy drinking, Buju supposedly revealed more drug-related details and the two men began talking over the phone for several months as Johnson bragged to loved ones about his new-found friendship with the singjay. Shortly thereafter, another conversation between the two was taped by Johnson during a meeting at the Marriott hotel where Johnson approached Buju about the facts and figures of cocaine deals.

On December 8, 2009, two days before Buju’s arrest, the prominent deejay planned to enjoy a day out on the town; driving with long-time friend, Ian Thomas and a female companion before Johnson aka “Junior” told him that the aforementioned plans had changed. The three men met at a restaurant in Sarasota, FL before heading to a dimly lit warehouse where an apparently shell-shocked Buju noticed a stranger, who had been talking with Johnson, open a car trunk which contained 20 kilograms of cocaine. After Buju and Thomas tasted a small dib of the cocaine powder, Thomas negotiated prices with a prospective buyer in Georgia while Buju sat nervously in a corner. Following that exchange, Buju nervously drove back to his Florida home; throwing up after drinking several margaritas and apparent stress.

Buju avoided calls from “Junior” for the next two days until police entered his Tamarac home, arresting the deejay on a pair of drug-related charges just hours after taking in Thomas and James Mack, who were caught with a stash of money and an illegal gun.

Throughout the remainder of Sweeney’s article, he points out Alex Johnson’s extensive criminal record as a Colombian drug dealer; calling him a “mendacious snitch,” amongst other things while claiming that this was part of his plan to help government officials nab Buju Banton. Additionally, Sweeney outlines previous cases where Johnson was used as a government informant to track down other prospective suspects. Evidence outlining Johnson’s past was never used in the second trial against Buju Banton which to place last February.
There’s also mention by Sweeney of Buju Banton’s controversial 1992 single, Boom Bye Bye as a possible reason for the alleged entrapment. The song, which was done following the murder and rape of a young boy by a homosexual man earlier that year, has long been frowned upon by American gay and civil rights rights groups, amongst others for its violent lyrics against gays. Sweeney cites University of the West Indies (UWI) professor, Caroline Cooper and Reggae superstar/long-time friend of Buju Banton, Wayne Wonder as defenders of the single; denouncing any literal meaning attached to the song whilst expanding on its metaphorical meanings.
Currently, Buju and the leader of his legal team, David Oscar Markus are awaiting word on an appeal that was filed last December on the deejay’s behalf; asking a Georgia appellate court to overturn the Reggae artiste’s 10 year sentence. One of the grounds for Buju’s appeal was the revelation that an American constitutional law may have been broken as the U.S. government did not bring the established singjay before trial during the 70 day window allotted under the Sixth Amendment. Should that prove true, it would violate the Speedy Trial Act, possibly triggering the dismissal of Buju Banton’s case.
To view the full, six-page article done by Chris Sweeney on the Buju case, visit the Miami New Times website: http://www.miaminewtimes.com

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