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Buju Banton arrested on a federal drug charge [Updated]

December 13, 2009 |  1:20 pm

Buju BantonFirst, reggae singer Buju Banton was in the news this month because of his best reggae album Grammy nomination. More on that later.

Now Banton, a Jamaican performer whose real name is Mark Anthony Myrie, is in federal prison in Miami, the Miami Herald reports.

He's been in custody since Thursday, arrested on a charge of conspiracy to possess, with intent to distribute, more than 5 kilograms of cocaine, a DEA spokesman said.

[Update, 10:27 a.m., Dec. 14, 2009: Banton allegedly attempted to buy cocaine from an undercover officer in Miami, the Associated Press reports.

According to court documents, Banton and two others contacted a police informant last week about buying cocaine in Sarasota. Drug Enforcement Administration agents say Banton negotiated the purchase and was observed inspecting cocaine offered by the undercover officer. The other men were also arrested Thursday when they allegedly attempted to buy the drugs.

Banton's record label has not commented on his arrest.]

[Read the Ministry's Dec. 15 follow-up post: "More details emerge in the Buju Banton drug case"]

Why the controversy -- one of many for the singer -- over the Grammy nod for his ninth album, "Rasta Got Soul"? Because of lyrics from the early part of his repertoire that advocated violence against gays -- an idea that's not anywhere close to new in Jamaica.

His reps told the Herald in September that criticism against Banton wasn't valid, because he'd stopped singing the song "Boom Bye Bye" -- but in an October sit-down with members of San Francisco's gay community, one activist saw "little movement on his part."

[For the record, 10:01 p.m., Dec. 13, 2009: An earlier version of this post had the name of Buju Banton's song as "Boom Boom Bye." The song's title is "Boom Bye Bye." Hat tip to commenter Kirby for making sure we get it right./cdz]

Though Banton is being held in Miami, the case in question is based in Tampa, Fla., where he will be transferred.

If convicted, he faces as many as 20 years in prison.

[Update, 9:56 a.m., Dec. 14, 2009: The Palm Beach Post reports that Banton is scheduled to appear today (Monday) in a Tampa court. Positive quotes from Buju at the Oct. 12, 2009, sit-down in San Francisco can be found here. A video of an Oct. 26, 2009, performance including the quote "There is no end to the war between me and (gays)" can be found on YouTube (we can't link directly because of the language involved). Also, here is an example of an unrelated drug trafficking case in which several people were charged with "conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute," for those unfamiliar with the charge.

If more details come out of court today, the Ministry will update again. Thanks for reading and for commenting. We're trying to get all the comments up -- just please comment without profanity.]

-- Christie D'Zurilla

P.S. If you comment, please remember that the Ministry has a zero-tolerance policy on profanity, including using **'s and --'s and other filter-tricking tactics (I'm the filter, so I can figure all that out). Just a friendly warning, in the interest of getting those comments published!/cdz

Photo: Buju Banton in 2006 at the Century Club in L.A. That show had to be moved from the Highlands in Hollywood because of a protest over the singer's anti-gay reputation. Credit: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times.

The Ministry has other dispatches with an LGBT or celebrity justice vibe -- just click those links.

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