Reggae Great Buju Banton Is Locked Up on Drug Charges. Was He Entrapped?

"You want to get something to drink? You want to get something to eat?" Johnson said, asking if Buju was still jet-lagged. Buju agreed.

A few hours later, he and a friend met Johnson in Fort Lauderdale and headed to the now-defunct restaurant Bova Prime. They started sucking back drinks and laughing, the whole conversation recorded surreptitiously on a wire worn by Johnson.

"We were drinking for eight and a half hours nonstop," Johnson bragged about the flight from Spain to a realtor who had stopped by the restaurant to show Buju some listings. "He's drinking champagne, and I'm drinking red wine. We were drinking and laughing, and everybody is looking."

For more than two hours, the men drank, talking about family, women, cars, home buying — the beginning of a blooming bromance. Then Buju's low tolerance hit him.

"Too much red wine," he slurred. "I need water."

Realizing that he was bombed, Buju cut himself off. He went outside to smoke a spliff and catch a ride with his friend. Johnson rushed over before they could leave.

"Excuse me, excuse me. I hate to, I hate to bring up the cocaine," Johnson said in his harsh Colombian accent. It was the first mention of drugs all day.

Just like on the flight, Buju started rambling about his supposed drug-dealing ventures. He portrayed himself as a Bond-type villain, leading Johnson to believe that he toured the world with his band by day and moved thousands upon thousands of kilos throughout the world by night. The drug talk quickly fizzled, though, and Johnson started chatting about his boat and how much fun they would have on it one day.

After that night, the calls kept coming. Johnson said he told his wife all about Buju and asked how he could get backstage passes. Though at times he sounded like a desperate hanger-on from summer camp, Buju didn't totally write him off. Hanging out with Johnson was fun, and it's not every day that Buju was wooed with booze and promises of music-industry contacts that might be able to put the "Boom Bye Bye" legacy to rest.

After a few days, Buju agreed to meet for some more drinks at a nearby Marriott. The day progressed as it had at Bova Prime and on the plane. Buju brought a friend, and the threesome started in on the booze. It wasn't until everyone was lubed up with liquor that Johnson steered the conversation toward the coke trade. Buju, again, started bragging. Again, the conversation was taped.

Johnson said he did $30 million deals, and Buju countered that he did $50 million deals. Buju claimed that he would never get caught because he was only an investor. He threw out figures on the price of kilos in Panama and Suriname. Looking to really outdo everyone, Buju expressed interest in the African diamond trade because, well, "diamonds are king."

Yet at these meetings, Buju stumbled on details that might be common knowledge to an international drug trafficker. He mixed up kilos with pounds and underestimated certain costs. Johnson corrected him on several points. After the Marriott, Buju's appreciation for Johnson came to an end.

"When I leave Mr. Johnson, I am going, like, 'Idiot!' " Buju would testify later, shaking his head and rolling his eyes to convey how annoying Johnson had become.

Buju had enough of hanging out, getting drunk, and playing Scarface. Johnson called him throughout August, September, October, and November. Buju politely made himself unavailable until the fateful day when he accepted an invitation to Sarasota, talked more about coke over margaritas, and then got locked in a warehouse with 20 kilos and two men he presumed to be armed Colombian drug dealers.


On Valentine's Day 2011, hours after winning the Grammy for best reggae album, Buju stood up from a small wooden table in a Tampa federal courtroom and bumped fists with David Oscar Markus, his Harvard-trained, Miami-based attorney. To their right, at a separate table, sat their opponents: James Preston, an archetypal federal prosecutor with thick white hair, and Dan McCaffrey, a buzzed-cut, goateed special agent with the Drug Enforcement Agency.

This was the second time the lawyers would face off over the fate of Buju. In September 2010, the government's first attempt to prosecute him ended in a hung jury stalled at 7-5 in favor of not guilty. Buju faced only two charges that time. In between the first and second trials, prosecutors tacked on two more: attempted possession with the intent to distribute cocaine and using the wires to facilitate a drug trafficking offense. The basis for the wires charge was that Buju had said that one line — "Yo, find out how much he wants" — in the warehouse.

Over the weeklong retrial, Preston teased out details trying to prove that Buju was a legitimate player in the international drug trade. He showed jurors the grainy, green-tinged surveillance video of Buju dabbing his tongue with government-issued cocaine at the Sarasota warehouse and played tape recordings of his slurred drug talk. He labeled Buju a broker who expected to get a cut of the money from whatever deal Ian Thomas and Alex Johnson reached.

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23 comments
juanitajefferson31
juanitajefferson31

I hope you get out soon to come rock concert in new orleans i love you buju im supporting you.

pheelingphine
pheelingphine

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.  

Duncan 23
Duncan 23

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.

God's Gay-lesbian Children
God's Gay-lesbian Children

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.

Chris_SLOB_BOY
Chris_SLOB_BOY

Of course it's entrapment ! Dude's never smoked a single joint in his life, probably doesn't even know what drugs are.

Mark A. Kam Holford
Mark A. Kam Holford

Idiot should have accepted the two year deal that he was offered as a plea bargain.

Mark A. Kam Holford
Mark A. Kam Holford

You can bet this was not the first cocaine deal that BB was involved in. 

Alan
Alan

Buju Banton is a murderous homophobe. I hope he rots in prison.

FQS9000
FQS9000

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.   

oOBlackHandOo
oOBlackHandOo

I don't know if he was and I don't care.... I can't wait to read the headline where he is dead.

1_Lovely_1
1_Lovely_1

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.

1_Lovely_1
1_Lovely_1

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.

Magickstikk7
Magickstikk7

u must be a homo, how you hope someone rote in hell when they were not convicted yet. I think your GAY

sprecks
sprecks

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.

Guest
Guest

 Well, yeah, God is just, which is why she has put buju behind bars.

A_lewis2904
A_lewis2904

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.

Mark A. Kam Holford
Mark A. Kam Holford

He isn't in jail for incitement to murder. He is in jail because he was heavily involved in drugs trafficking.

oOBlackHandOo
oOBlackHandOo

 I got some bad news for you, sunshine... Hair lip hell and half of Georgia, there aint' a chance of that ghetto trash being in my family or friend...

1_Lovely_1
1_Lovely_1

There is no concrete evidence that he was 'heavily involved' in drug trafficking. The issue here is that his so-called betheren said whatever to get a lesser sentence and the government sent their paid informant to make sure Buju got locked up for drugs any way possible.

1_Lovely_1
1_Lovely_1

Be careful what you wish for others b/c it will most likely happen to you first and it will be ten times worse.

 
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