News

Glimpse of hope for Buju?

BY KARYL WALKER Online news editor walkerk@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, October 31, 2012    

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REGGAE artiste Buju Banton was gifted a small lifeline when US Judge James Moody yesterday postponed his re-sentencing and decided to research whether he could grant a motion by his attorneys to allow a new trial after revelation that a juror acted in breach of Federal Court rules.

Banton was originally scheduled to face a re-sentencing hearing at the US Sam Gibbons Court in Tampa, Florida yesterday following an Atlanta-based Appeals Court ruling that he should be convicted for a gun possession offence.

The ruling was made after the artiste lost an appeal bid against his 10-year conviction on a drug-smuggling charge.

He faced an additional five years on that conviction.

However, the re-sentencing was postponed after his attorney Chokwe Lumumba filed two motions before Judge Moody.

"We filed two motions. The first motion was for the judge to reconsider his prior sentence and reduce it. The second motion was for a new trial based on jury misconduct. The judge decided that notice for the new trial took precedence over re-sentencing and decided to research whether he is allowed to grant a new trial under the law," Banton's co-counsel, Ihmotep Alkebu-lan, told the Jamaica Observer yesterday.

"We are hoping that he is granted a new trial to hear from jurors and elicit testimony about their misconduct, and therefore he be granted a new trail," he said.

The juror, Terri Wright, revealed to a Florida media house that she had secretly researched the Pinkerton Law which was used by the prosecution to connect Banton to an illegal firearm that was found in the possession of a co-conspirator, James Mack, during a cocaine transaction in a police-controlled warehouse in Tampa.

Mack and another man, Ian Thomas, were both arrested during that sting operation and copped guilty pleas. They both received 51-month sentences.

Alkebu-lan said Moody had already done preliminary research and determined that he could grant a reduced sentence on Banton's first conviction.

No date has yet been set for Moody to reveal his ruling on the motion and the artiste could still languish in captivity for months before he knows his fate.

"I don't know how long that will be, it's beyond our control. Justice has to take its course, and we are hoping that it will be soon," Alkebu-lan said.

However, he cautioned that although the early signals seemed encouraging for the artiste, the judge was not bound to rule in his favour.

"He could rule against us," he said.

Banton could also face stern opposition from the prosecutors to the motion for a new trial or a reduced sentence.

He has consistently maintained his innocence and claimed he was entrapped by Drug Enforcement Agent informant Alexander Johnson, who he said enticed him with promises of huge record deals.

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