Yesterday, dancehall legend Buju Banton was convicted of conspiring to set up a cocaine deal back in 2009. Buju just won a Grammy last week for best reggae album for his album, "Before the Dawn." He was found guilty of three of four charges, and may be facing 15 years to life in prison. The charges included possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense, conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute cocaine and using the telephone to facilitate a drug crime. He was acquitted of attempted possession of cocaine with the intent to distribute. No date has been set for the sentencing hearing.
Buju has insisted that he was set up by the Fed’s from the beginning. He met the informant on a plane in 2009 and testified the informant approached him with proposals of cocaine purchases. Banton stated he didn't return the informant's calls for months and was not interested the informant's proposals. The father of fifteen was recorded saying he was 'stressed out' and needed money to pay his kids' school tuition.
The prosecuting U.S. Attorneys did acknowledge that Buju did contribute any money to the drug deal or profit from any of the transactions. However, much of the case was based on the taped meetings and conversations with the informant. In one of the video tapes at a Florida warehouse, Buju can be seen tasting cocaine. During the trial, the Prosecutors argued that Mr. Banton portrayed himself as a drug financer in several recorded conversations with the government informant. They also claimed Buju thought he was only introduce the two men and then would later collect money from the transactions which he considered a 'no risk' deal. Buju Banton was not present for the actual drug deal that later lead to the arrest of two of his associates. Those two men both pleaded guilty to all charges.
The informant, Alexander Johnson, made a $50,000 commission from the DEA for his information that lead to the arrest of Buju Banton. Mr. Johnson has said to have made upward of $3,000,000 from his work with the DEA.
Steven Marley, son of reggae legend Bob Marley, testified of Buju's behalf along with Gramps Morgan. Both friends of the Grammy award winner artist said Banton was definitely a "big talker". David Markus, Banton's attorney, admitted his client was trying to impress the informant but did not set up any drug deals with him. Markus plans to appeal the conviction and file for Buju to get out on bail.
Back in his hometown of Jamaica, the radio stations played his music all day. All of his fans and friends show support. Tony Rebel called it a "sad day" and Junior Reid called it a conspiracy against reggae artists.