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Reggae star gets 10 years on drug charge

Grammy-winning reggae singer Buju Banton has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for conspiring to set up a cocaine deal.  Grammy-winning reggae singer Buju Banton has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for conspiring to set up a cocaine deal.

U.S. District Judge James S. Moody passed the sentence in a Tampa, Fla., courtroom recently.

In February, Banton was found guilty of conspiracy to possess and the intent to distribute cocaine, possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking offence, and using a telephone to facilitate a drug-trafficking offence.

Judge Moody received dozens of letters asking for leniency for the 37-year-old singer, including requests from a former Jamaican government official, an NBA player, and other reggae artists.

The judge threw out a gun charge, reducing Banton’s mandatory minimum sentence to 10 years instead of 15.  The performer, whose real name is Mark Myrie, must serve five years of probation following his release from prison.

Much of the prosecution’s case hinged on meetings and phone calls that were recorded by a confidential informant working with the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Banton’s lawyer David Markus argued his client talked about drugs to impress the informant, but put no money into the drug deal.  Prosecutors agreed he was not present during the actual exchange of money and drugs that led to his arrest and the arrest of two others.

Banton, despite legal troubles, earned a best reggae album Grammy earlier in 2011 for his work “Before the Dawn.”

(Special to the NNPA from The New York Carib News)

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