September 22, 2010


• Stephen Marley says artiste is no drug dealer


TAMPA, Florida — Reggae star Buju Banton denied being a drug dealer when he took the stand during his drug trial in the Gibbons US Court here this afternoon.
Banton said he was “talking crap” during the conversation with Alexander Johnson, the prosecution's main witness, on a flight they shared from Madrid to Miami. He said the incident has caused him and his family indescribable pain.
Banton, whose real name is Mark Myrie, was called to the stand about 2:45 pm Florida time by his attorney David Oscar Markus.
“I was just talking crap. I’m not a drug dealer,” Banton admitted.
He said that he did not want to be outtalked by Johnson, and said Johnson seemed to be a nice person who he liked hanging out with.
Banton admitted also that he had made a false move by sampling cocaine in a warehouse in Tampa. He said he was unaware that he was going to see cocaine as Johnson told him that he was going to inspect a boat.
He said he was fascinated with boats and was very surprised when he saw cocaine.
Banton apologised profusely and when asked by his attorney how he felt, the artiste said, “I am nervous and scared and I have been waiting for 10 months…” before he was interrupted by lead prosecutor Jim Preston who objected to the line of questioning.
Presiding judge Jim Moody sustained the objection.
Under cross examination, Preston, who asked Banton if he had thanked Johnson for making him [Buju] himself again, Banton said, “I would not risk my career which I have been working to build for 20 years for five kilos of cocaine.”
Banton said he was thanking Johnson who he thought could hook him up with a record deal and not a cocaine deal, as his record deal with his former company Tommy Boy Records had expired in 2009.
Meanwhile, Stephen Marley, son of Reggae king Bob Marley, also testified on Banton’s behalf, saying he has known him for over 10 years and never knew him to be a drug dealer.
Banton was arrested at his home at Tamarac, South Florida hours after his former co-accused Ian Thomas and James Mack, were arrested during an alleged drug bust in an undercover operation at a warehouse in Sarasota, Florida in December last year.
All three were charged with conspiracy to possess more than five kilogrammes of cocaine with intent to distribute, while Mack was charged with possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking offence.
The drug charge carries a minimum sentence of 20 years to life in addition to a fine of up to US$4 million, while the firearm charge carries a sentence of five years to life and a fine of up to US$250,000.
Both Mack and Thomas, in their plea deals, have agreed to give evidence to assist the US Government in building a case against Banton, in exchange for lesser sentences.
The trial continues tomorrow.


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