By Terrence McCoy
By Scott Fishman
By Deirdra Funcheon
By Allie Conti
By New Times Staff
By Ryan Pfeffer
By Deirdra Funcheon
By Kyle Swenson
Buju Banton had been blowing off the man he knew as "Junior" for months. The 38-year-old reggae sensation was always ready with an excuse to rush off the phone or cancel plans — he had rehearsal, he was getting ready for a tour, he was too tired. But Junior, a stout, blockheaded Colombian, had been relentless over the past week, calling every day like a needy girlfriend. He laid the guilt trip on thick, saying he'd made a special trip to Florida's west coast and even borrowed a boat so he could catch up with Buju over drinks.
"For like five months, [he] has been calling me repeatedly, and when he said 'I came all this way to see you,' I felt a little bit bad in myself," Buju would later recall in his gravelly Jamaican accent. "And I, I felt sorry a bit for him talking to me like that, saying that he came all this way to see me and I wouldn't even give him the time of day."
Buju caved. On December 8, 2009, he popped on his swim trunks, pulled a pair of jeans over them, and, along with two friends — a female companion and Buju's longtime driver and pal, Ian Thomas — jumped into his silver Land Rover with a "Jah One" vanity plate. They left his Tamarac duplex and started the drive to Naples for a day of fun in the sun.
As the exit sign for Naples came into view, Buju called Junior to give him a heads up that they would soon arrive. But plans had changed, Junior said. They needed to drive to Sarasota and meet him at a restaurant. From there, they would grab keys for the boat from a friend. Buju, in a frustrated, almost defeated tone, conceded to the extra 120 miles.
In Sarasota, Buju introduced Thomas to Junior over margaritas. A short while later, after leaving a restaurant, Buju and the men found themselves in a dimly lit warehouse, the shutter door clanking down and locking behind them. Inside, a stranger lurked in the corner and started speaking to Junior in Spanish, leaving Buju clueless. There was no boat or keys in sight.
With his long dreadlocks pulled into a ponytail, Buju paced and swayed, his lanky, dark, black frame oozing an aura of nervousness. He asked to use the bathroom but was told the toilet was broken.
"Let me go do it outside," he bargained.
Junior and the stranger avoided answering him. Then the stranger walked over to a parked car and opened a hidden compartment in the trunk to reveal 20 plastic-wrapped kilos of cocaine.
"I felt my stomach turn," Buju testified months later. "I tried to play it down and be calm. I keep telling myself... be cool, be cool, it's gonna be, just be cool."
Buju's friend, Thomas, seemed adept at navigating this type of environment. He plucked a kilo from the pile and plopped it down on a workbench. Buju followed closely behind, peeking over his friend's shoulder as he made a small incision in the packaging. Thomas dabbed a fingertip of the powder on his tongue and proffered the blade to Buju so he could follow suit.
After tasting the cocaine, Buju sank into a chair in the corner of the room. He fiddled and tried to occupy himself while Thomas pulled out a phone and started negotiating prices with an apparent buyer in Georgia.
"Yo, find out how much he wants," Buju murmured. He later claimed that he had no idea who was on the line and that his remark was just an attempt to appear legitimate, to play it cool. Thomas ignored his friend and carried on uninterrupted.
When the warehouse door screeched open, Buju turned around and told Thomas to exchange numbers with Junior. The singer later said he spent the long drive back to Tamarac throwing up from a combination of stress and margaritas. Later that night, Junior called Buju two times. Buju avoided the calls.
The next day, Thomas drove back out to Sarasota alone and met Junior at an Applebee's for a round of negotiations. Junior pushed to get Buju involved in that day's antics. "He does not want to do nothing, man," Thomas responded. "That's not him, you know? Music, eat, sleep, shit every day." Junior then agreed to sell five kilos to Thomas' connection in Georgia. Junior left the restaurant, called his supervisor at the Drug Enforcement Agency, and said it was a "miracle" that he held onto the deal.
The day after that, on the morning of December 10, 2009, authorities busted Thomas and a guy from Georgia named James Mack at the Sarasota warehouse, where the two were caught with a gun and $135,000 in cash while trying to buy several kilos. Cops then pulled Buju from his Tamarac home and placed him under arrest on two charges: conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute cocaine and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense — even though the firearm at issue was carried by Mack, not Buju.
Buju and his legal team would argue in court that he was not a drug dealer, just a boaster, and that Junior was a conniving, mendacious man with an extensive criminal history and tremendous financial motive to see Buju arrested. Whatever the truth, the saga sheds light on how far the government will go and how much it will spend to win a battle in the war on drugs. It's now up to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals to decide whether the DEA entrapped one of the most successful reggae artists in history.
And what most of you don't understand,is that Buju is from a completely different culture then in the US,also in the Rastafarian Religion Homosexuality is the worst thing.When he wrote "Boom Boom" he was like 17 and there had been a horrific crime committed against a child,he was brutally raped and murdered by a man,and Buju was angry over that specific case when he wrote that song,and has paid dearly for it in the entertainment industry.
It seems obvious to me that the government or an official in it really wanted Buju Arrested. There methods seem vindictive. It reminds me of Hoover actively seeking to find dirt on Malcom Z and Martin Luther King in attempt to nullify their influence and standing in the communities that they served.
This article is shameful.It's clear that the writer is a huge fan of Buju's and has a man-crush on him. Whatever.
Buju never apologized for calling for the death, torture and mutilation of god's gay-lesbian children. His management claims he did, because they know how shameful what he did was. But he has not, which is why there is no link, no video, no audio of the apology.
Nor has he apologized for the way that his song has become a global symbol of hatred and violence against innocent gay people. If Buju were a man, he would own up to what he did, and actually apologize.
Buju is in jail because of karma--he is making amends for the hurt and pain his music has sowed, including for the song that defines his legacy, Boom ByeBye. I believe in redemption, but he played the song as recently as 2006, so he has to repent before he can be redeemed.
He did clear up any misconceptions about the song and stated that it should not be taken literally. The problem here is that the groups opposing Buju wanted him to put up money and go against his beliefs. How is donating money to your cause going to help people change their beliefs on the issue? It seemed greedy and baseless to me, but I digress.
You are not a supporter of Buju, but there are many people who love and respect Buju because he's a legend and 'Boom Bye Bye' is only a brief snapshot in the career of this man. He has made countless songs uplifting the poor and ghetto people, but foreigners only want to focus on the negative and that's sad.
Of course it's entrapment ! Dude's never smoked a single joint in his life, probably doesn't even know what drugs are.
He either was innocent or really felt as though he could win (which is what almost happened in the first trial). In retrospect that would have been better for him, but everyone knows that the system throws plea bargaining at innocent people and offenders as a means of getting out of doing their job.
u must be a homo, how you hope someone rote in hell when they were not convicted yet. I think your GAY
So because he don't like people like you who mix their dick with shit, he should be in prison? Since when does a persons dislikes equate to a crime worthy of imprisonment? You are an idiot.
He isn't in jail for incitement to murder. He is in jail because he was heavily involved in drugs trafficking.
A classic case of too many Feds with too much money desperately seeking an easy conviction to justify their fat paychecks.
The root cause here is too many taxes and too many bureaucrats.
For the Gay ones that oppose Buju.....don't hate. He has done you no wrong. He is a man just as any of us and he was wronged by the Government that we follow. Judge a man from his first breath, to his last. One song doesn't make him an evil person. Just to clear the air, i'm not a homophobic person. It's your choice. Just treat the situation like you would if he was a friend or family member.