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Buju Banton, Reggae's Greatest Living Singer, Gets Appeal On Drug Conviction

Set Buju Banton Free

Set Buju Banton Free

Of all the travesties I’ve ever heard about in the music world, the setting up and jailing of Buju Banton is the worst. It is an insane story of an airplane trip where the dancehall King cum rastaman superstar singer was set up and badly.

Here is how the Miami New Times News reported the story: “His career was cut short December 8, 2009, when an acquaintance delivered him to a Sarasota warehouse hot-wired for government surveillance. Once inside, the singer stood by while two men discussed the sale of cocaine and examined 20 kilos of the narcotic. Two days later, Banton and two other men were arrested and charged with conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute cocaine and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug-trafficking offense.

As a February 2012 New Times feature, “Buju Behind Bars,” showed, Banton was no kingpin. He had fallen under the sway of a sweet-talking government snitch named Alexander “Junior” Johnson. Busted for smuggling 700 kilos of coke into the United States in the 1990s, the Colombian native reinvented himself as confidential informant who set up criminals using a government check as bait. By the time he crossed paths with Buju, he’d banked around $3.5 million from snitching. The recording artist maintains he never intended to make a drug buy.”

This is a ridiculous story, it is insane for any one to be set up but to then have a mistrial, try Buju again, and put him away for TEN YEARS is a travesty of justice. rock nyc wrote about it extensively at the time. I saw him several times on stage and he was always great plus he had a coupla greatest albums in Reggae in the 1990s, Til Shiloh and Inna Heights are both masterpieces. And if that isn’t enough to free an innocent man, you’d think pressure from rock luminaries, none of who showed, would have. It didn’t happen, maybe because of his early homophobic Dance Hall stuff.

But on August 19th, 2014, some great news arrived, so under the radar nobody in the rock world reported it: Spin, CoS, NYT, and all the rest were too busy “reporting” Prince’s two albums to be released to bother with it. I missed it as well but Buju had been on my mind and I was gonna write a story reminding the world that the great singer was in jail, so I googled him and found this great news from the New York Daily News:

“A lawyer for convicted Jamaican reggae star Buju Banton says a U.S. federal appellate court has agreed to hear his appeal.

“The Grammy-winning singer is serving a 10-year sentence for convictions on cocaine conspiracy and trafficking charges stemming from a 2009 arrest. He was convicted in 2011 following a sting operation.
In a Tuesday email, attorney Charles Ogletree says the full 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta will hold a hearing on the case.

“The decision comes after a panel of that court in 2012 upheld Banton’s convictions. His former defense lawyer had argued that a government informant improperly entrapped the singer.”
Ogletree says Banton is pleased with the court’s decision. It’s not clear when the hearing will take place.”

Buju should be set free now, today. It is completely pathetic. Untold story, indeed.

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