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Buju Banton convicted on cocaine charges, faces at least 15 years

February 22, 2011 |  4:29 pm

Buju Banton convicted Buju Banton, the Grammy-winning Jamaican reggae singer, was convicted Tuesday in a Florida court on three of four federal drug charges. He faces at least 15 years in prison.

"Obviously, we are all upset and disappointed and emotional," said Banton's attorney, David Markus. "The only person who seems to be OK is Buju. He told us he was happy that he fought, knowing he was innocent."

Banton, whose real name is Mark Myrie, was arrested in a Drug Enforcement Agency sting operation in Miami in December 2009. He attempted to buy cocaine from an undercover officer, police said at the time. A mistrial was declared when the case first went to trial in September.

"Our life and our destiny are sometimes pre-destined and no matter where this journey takes me, remember I fought the good fight," Banton said Tuesday in a statement read by his lawyer, the Jamaica Observer reports. "It was a great man that said my head is bloody but still unbowed I love you all thank you for your support."

In Banton's native Jamaica, radio stations played his songs nonstop Tuesday, especially "Untold Stories" and "Not an Easy Road." Markus, who said Banton will appeal, will try to get his client out on bail in the meantime.

The jury deliberated for 11 hours on the cocaine-related charges, acquitting Banton of attempted possession with the intent to distribute, but finding him guilty of conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute, possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense and using a telephone to facilitate a drug trafficking offense.

In one videotape made by an informant who was party of the sting, Banton could be seen tasting cocaine in a Sarasota warehouse on Dec. 8, 2009 -- but he was not present during the actual drug deal on Dec. 10 that led two others to be arrested. Those two men later pleaded guilty.

Banton testified that the informant badgered him after they met on a trans-Atlantic flight in July 2009 and insisted that they meet to set up a cocaine purchase. He said he was so uninterested in the informant's proposals that after they met twice, Banton didn't return the man's phone calls for months.

Banton won a Grammy on Feb. 13 for "Before the Dawn."

A sentencing date has not been set. 


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-- Christie D'Zurilla

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Photo: Buju Banton leaves the federal courthouse in Tampa, Fla., on Feb. 14, 2011. Credit: Steve Nesius / Reuters