Big blow for ‘Buju’ - Reggae artiste now to answer four charges

BY PAUL HENRY Crime/Court Co-ordinator

Thursday, February 10, 2011    

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JAMAICAN reggae artiste Buju Banton will be facing four charges instead of two when he goes on retrial in a US federal court next Monday. Judge James Moody yesterday afternoon dismissed a motion by Banton seeking to have the new indictment thrown out.

"...We are going to trial on Monday on the new charges. That's okay. We are ready," attorney David Oscar Markus told the Observer yesterday.

The four-time Grammy nominated artiste whose real name is Mark Myrie, had originally been tried last September on charges of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine, and aiding and abetting the possession of a firearm during a drug-trafficking offence.

Banton will now be tried for:

* conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute cocaine;

* attempted possession with the intent to distribute cocaine;

* possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug-trafficking offence; and

* using the wires to facilitate a drug-trafficking offence.

The prosecution had secured the new indictment with an additional two counts last November after Banton's first trial ended with a hung jury in September.

Banton is to be tried in the Sam M Gibbons Federal Court in Tampa, Florida. If convicted, he faces up to 20 years' imprisonment.

Banton was arrested in December 2009 as part of a sting operation following the arrests of two men, Ian Thomas and James Mack, in Florida and was slapped with the drug and weapon charges. The men, who pleaded guilty to the charges last year are expected to testify during Banton's second trial. They did not participate in the previous trial.

The second trial was to have started last December but was postponed so Banton, who is on US$250,000 bail and is subjected to house arrest, could spend time with his family.





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