Monday, February 13, 2012 at 11:57 a.m.
On Friday, the Department of Justice filed an aggressive response to Buju Banton's appeal and continued to write off the fact that the drug case was built by a deceitful snitch with tremendous financial incentive to entrap people -- as detailed in last week's cover story.
The DOJ also filed its own appeal of the judge's decision to throw out the gun charge against Buju. If the government gets it way and has the gun charge reinstated, an additional five years could be tacked on to the reggae legend's decadelong sentence.
"It still smacks of the same vindictiveness that we saw earlier. That's what's really troubling," says David Oscar Markus, Buju's attorney. "It's so aggressive, and it just continues with the piling on, trying to reinstate the gun charge, which there's no evidence to support."
Last February, a Tampa jury found Buju guilty on three counts, including possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug-trafficking offense. The gun in question was hidden in the car of James Mack, a man Buju had never met or spoken with, at a drug deal that Buju was hundreds of miles from. It's unclear if Buju had any knowledge that the drug deal was even taking place.
At a June sentencing, the judge decided to throw out the gun charge because it was based largely on "the assumption that guns and drugs go together." But now the DOJ is arguing that it only needed to prove that someone bringing a gun to the drug deal was a "reasonable foreseeable action" to Buju.
The government's response argues several other points, including that Buju was predisposed to do the drug deal -- even though it took a snitch six months and plenty of booze to lure him to an undercover warehouse to see drugs -- and that his right to a speedy trial wasn't violated because the government was engaged in an investigation of a codefendant's attorney.
"Their response to the speedy trial claim was really weak," Markus says. "Basically [the government] was saying that it wanted to investigate a codefendant and his lawyer, so they decided to keep Buju in jail for an extra year."
Buju's legal team now has 30 days to respond to the government and its appeal of the gun charge. An appeals court in Atlanta will review the case, though it could be at least a year before a decision is delivered.
"We still feel really good about the appeal, and we feel we're right," Markus says. "I've spoken to Buju about it, and he feels the same way."
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