Grammy award-winning Jamaican reggae artiste Buju Banton has lost his appeal to have his conviction overturned to secure a new trial.
In a ruling on Wednesday (January 21st), the court said it does not have jurisdiction to hear the appeal.
Buju Banton, born Mark Anthony Myrie, was arrested in Florida in December 2009 by Drug Enforcement Administration agents. The 41-year-old Banton was charged by the U.S. Attorney with conspiracy to distribute and possess more the five kilograms of cocaine.
The charges against Mark Myrie stemmed from his conversation with a confidential informant for the Drug Enforcement Administration, Alexander Johnson, whom Myrie met on a trans-Atlantic flight in July 2009.
Myrie told Johnson about his experience in the illegal drug trade and warned him about an acquaintance who he said had become a “snitch.”
Myrie also discussed his plans to bring cocaine from Venezuela to Europe on a sailboat. He asked Johnson if he knew any suppliers, and then explained that he limited his involvement to financing drug transactions.
Over the next several months, Myrie continued to speak to Johnson via telephone to discuss drug transactions.
On Dec. 8 Myrie brought Ian Thomas with him to meet with Johnson. He told Johnson that Thomas knew prospective buyers for Johnson’s cocaine.
When Johnson proposed a drug transaction, the group drove to a warehouse where undercover police were waiting with 30 kilograms of cocaine. Thomas then informed Johnson that Myrie would no longer come to the meetings.
At a meeting between Johnson and Thomas the next day, Thomas brought another associate, James Mack, who he said worked for the buyers. They all drove to the warehouse where the undercover officers were waiting and Thomas and Mack were arrested. A loaded handgun was found in Mack’s car.
Banton was charged officially with conspiracy to possess five kilograms or more of cocaine; attempt to possess five kilograms or more of cocaine with intent to distribute; possession of a firearm and carrying a firearm during the course of a drug trafficking crime; and aiding and abetting the use of a telephone to commit a drug trafficking crime.
A Florida jury found Myrie guilty of Counts 1, 3 and 4, but the entertainer managed in a second motion for a new trial to have his Count 3 conviction throw out for jury misconduct.
The court determined the jury foreman in Myrie’s case had previously served on juries for criminal cases, took notes about the case in her car, researched the jury instructions, and informed other jurors about her research.
Myrie went to the federal appeals court in Atlanta to seek retrial on the two other counts of which he was convicted, but a three-judge panel found Wednesday they lack jurisdiction “since the pending charge against Myrie prevents us from hearing his appeal at this point in the proceedings.”
The count Banton was hoping to appeal was the firearm charge, which had been postponed by his attorney on suspicion of jury misconduct. If the gun charge sticks, it would add a possible additional five years to Banton’s 10-year and one month sentence he received in 2011.
Banton also sought retrial for the other two counts against him.
Buju is scheduled to be released in 2019, however he filed his own motion from prison asking to be released early under a recent change in federal drug sentencing guidelines.
Banton has maintained his innocence and says he was entrapped by the United States government and the lawyers are arguing that their client was entrapped by a paid informant, and that there is clear evidence of juror misconduct.
Myrie’s drug conspiracy did not put much of a dent in his music career. While serving his 10-year sentence in 2011, he won “Best Reggae Album of the Year” at the 53rd Annual Grammy Awards.
In 1992, Myrie broke Bob Marley’s record for most No. 1 singles in a year.