17 FEB,2012

LAWYERS for imprisoned reggae star Buju Banton were dealt a major blow yesterday when the United States government said there was sufficient evidence to support his June, 2011 conviction on cocaine conspiracy and trafficking charges.

According to the Associated Press new agency, Federal prosecutors filed their response last Friday in Atlanta’s federal appeals court, where Buju’s lawyers had filed an appeal in December.

The AP report out of Miami said prosecutors noted that “Banton’s words and actions, in recorded conversations and a videotaped meeting in a Sarasota, Florida, warehouse where Banton tasted some cocaine, revealed the singer ‘eagerly brokered’ a drug deal between a friend and undercover government agents.

Buju, 39, was sentenced to 10 years in prison in a federal court in Tampa, Florida. He is serving his term at the Federal Correctional Institute in Miami.

With good behaviour, his lawyers believe he will be paroled in six years.

His legal team, led by David Oskar Marcus, argued that the US government acted illegally by failing to bring Buju to trial before 70 days. This, they said, is a violation of the US constitution’s Sixth Amendment.

But the Federal government dismissed the appeal, saying prosecutors brought a legitimate case against the Grammy-winning singjay whose real name is Mark Myrie.

He was sentenced by Judge James S Moody who gave Buju the most lenient sentence for a drugs charge. During the trial, prosecutor James Preston cast Buju as ‘a self-assured drug broker’, presenting several video and audiotapes made by an informant of the dreadlocked artiste tasting cocaine at a Florida warehouse in December, 2009.

Buju was arrested at his south Florida home that month. A six-day trial in September, 2010 ended in a mis-trial and the entertainer was granted bail.

A second trial was scheduled for February last year, in which Buju was convicted.

Nine days before his conviction on February 22, Buju Banton won a Grammy Award for Best Reggae Album for his 2009 album Rasta Got Soul.