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Mistrial declared in reggae singer Buju Banton's drug case

September 27, 2010 |  5:14 pm

Buju Banton mistrial Perhaps the drums beaten on Buju Banton's behalf this weekend by Rastafarian elders at a two-night vigil in Jamaica had an effect: A mistrial was declared Monday for the reggae singer, who was arrested in December on suspicion of conspiracy to possess and distribute cocaine.

Jurors, who began deliberations Thursday in Tampa, Fla., told the judge twice Monday that they could not come to a decision after the four-day trial. Banton is also charged with aiding two others in possessing a firearm during the course of cocaine distribution.

Though Banton, whose real name is Mark Myrie, was returned to lockup, his attorney has requested he be released on bail. The singer, who faces up to life in prison if convicted, testified that taped conversations in which he discussed cocaine with a government informant were meant only to impress the man, not to set up an actual drug deal. Bob Marley's son Stephen Marley testified as a character witness on Banton's behalf.

The informant said the four-time Grammy nominee — known for anti-gay lyrics in the past — had admitted involvement in drug trafficking and wanted to provide money with which to buy drugs. The other two men arrested in the sting have pleaded guilty. A new trial will begin in December.

Seems birthday boy Lil Wayne isn't the only recording artist releasing new music this week from prison: Banton's "Before the Dawn," with 10 songs recorded last year before his arrest, will drop Tuesday.

— Christie D'Zurilla

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.

Related dispatches from the Ministry of Gossip:

More details emerge in the Buju Banton drug case

Buju Banton arrested on a federal drug charge