January 31st, 2015
Grammy-winning reggae star Buju Banton convicted on cocaine charges
Banton, born Mark Myrie, reached the zenith of his singing career Feb. 13 when his album “Before the Dawn” was awarded the Grammy for best reggae album. But in a flash, his life has seemingly bottomed out as he faces a sentence of up to life in prison.
Prosecutors said Banton was the middleman in a cocaine transaction between Tampa dope dealers and a confidential informant working with the Drug Enforcement Administration.
The charges stemmed from a December 2009 DEA drug sting.
Banton, 37, was caught on covert audio and videotape boasting about the “no-risk” drug deal and sampling the illicite white powder.
“This is not about Buju Banton, the reggae singer. This is about Mark Myrie, the drug defendant,” Assistant U.S. Attorney James Preston said during his closing argument last Thursday.
Banton’s lawyer, David Markus, countered that the singer did not profit from the drug deal.
He said Banton was snared in the DEA probe because he is “a big talker” and was trying to impress the confidential informant – who ended up with a $50,000 commission following the bust.
“He tried to act cool,” Markus said.