Florida (BNO): Reggae star Buju Banton was found guilty of cocaine conspiracy charges on Tuesday, just over a week after winning a Grammy Award. He could face up to 20 years in prison. Banton, 37, born as Mark Anthony Myrie in Kingston, Jamaica, was arrested in Miami, Florida in December 2009 for conspiracy to distribute and posses more than five kilograms of cocaine, as well as possession of a firearm during a drug-trafficking crime, among other charges.
However, a mistrial was declared 9 months later and he went on retrial earlier this month. A crucial development in the retrial was that one of his alleged associates, James Mack, invoked his Fifth Amendment rights, refusing to testify. Mack had initially testified that he had never spoken to Banton and that the gun and cash discovered in the vehicle during their arrest did not belong to the reggae singer. Furthermore, a video exists in which Banton is shown testing out cocaine with his finger at a U.S. warehouse in front of an undercover police officer.
The charges against Banton explain that he, along with two associates, one of them being Mack and the other Ian Thomas, conspired to buy a large amount of cocaine. On Tuesday, Banton was found guilty by a 12-member panel of jurors on charges of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute five or more kilograms of cocaine, attempted possession with the intent to distribute cocaine, and using the wires to facilitate a drug-trafficking offence. He was found not guilty of possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug-trafficking offence.
His bail was revoked after the guilty verdict was announced and Banton will now awaiting sentencing, which could send him to jail for up to 20 years. Earlier this month, Banton won the Grammy Award for Best Reggae Album category. "It feels good," Banton's management said on his behalf. "I have been nominated four times before although I never won. To me it means a lot because it shows that my music has transcended a lot of borders and people are now paying attention to what I'm saying in-depth."