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More details emerge in the Buju Banton drug case [Updated]

December 15, 2009 |  5:50 am

Buju2 On Sunday night and early Monday, little was known about Buju Banton's arrest on a federal drug charge other than the fact that the reggae singer was in custody in Miami and faced a charge of conspiracy to possess more than 5 kilograms of cocaine with intent to distribute -- which carries a sentence of up to 20 years.

However, with the release of a Drug Enforcement Administration affidavit, more details have emerged about the undercover operation that led to the arrest of the singer and two associates, the Tampa Tribune reports.

[Update: 9:29 a.m., Dec. 15, 2009: Banton's attorney, Herbert E. Walker III, said in an e-mail to the Associated Press today that his client "vigorously denies" allegations that he tried to buy a large amount of cocaine from an undercover police officer. Walker said he looked forward to representing Banton in court but would not say more about the case.]

The additional information came as waves of shock and surprise -- and unsupported claims of a setup or conspiracy -- rippled through the reggae community and among Banton's fans, according to the Miami Herald.

The DEA affidavit said that the Jamaican dance-hall singer, whose real name is Mark Anthony Myrie, traveled to Sarasota, Fla., last week with two other men to negotiate a drug purchase. A confidential informant -- who agreed to wear a wire during the negotiations -- had tipped off the DEA to the situation. Banton arrived at the meeting in his silver Land Rover with the license plate "Jah One," the affidavit said.

The DEA said the alleged negotiations started at a restaurant that was under surveillance, and that the parties later met at a police-controlled warehouse, where an undercover officer presented to participants one brick -- a kilogram -- out of a 20-kilogram load.

The package was cut open with a knife, the affidavit said, and Banton wiped the blade with his finger and attempted to taste the cocaine. The negotiations, which continued for a while, were taped.

MTV News has the details on how the negotiations went down, according to the DEA, including the weight of drugs in which interest was allegedly expressed, and the dollar amount of cash reportedly offered. After a deal was allegedly struck, an undercover officer said he saw one suspect pull large amounts of cash from secret compartments in his car -- cash that law enforcement says was traded for 7 kilos of cocaine.

According to the Miami Herald:

On Monday, in South Florida and Jamaica, callers burned up radio airwaves, calling the arrest a "conspiracy" to get him after his recent controversy that included protests by local gay-rights advocates over a Halloween concert in downtown Miami.

Banton associates Ian Thomas and James Mack were arrested Thursday after the alleged exchange of money for drugs.

Banton, 36, was also arrested Thursday morning, though not at the warehouse, and is in custody in Miami awaiting a bail hearing scheduled for Wednesday. The charge he is facing carries a maximum 20-year prison sentence.

The attorney handling Banton's bail hearing didn't immediately return an e-mail from the Tampa Tribune seeking comment.

-- Christie D'Zurilla

To read the Ministry's initial report about Buju Banton's arrest, including the history relative to gays that has made him a controversial artist, click here.

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