Buju Banton's Attorney Asks Judge to Reconsider Denying New Trial
Updated at 3:10 p.m.: Judge James Moody has denied the request detailed below.
Buju Banton's legal team on Thursday filed a motion requesting that Judge James Moody reconsider his recent decision to deny the reggae star a new trial on a gun charge. It's the latest development in a complicated tussle that could extend Buju's sentence by as much as five years.
Here's a recap of how the gun charge has evolved: A federal jury found Buju guilty of two drug-related charges and a gun charge back in February 2011. Keep in mind that this was a retrial, as the first attempt at a conviction ended with a hung jury. In between the two trials, the government tacked on two new charges and seemingly spent hours coaching its confidential informant, Alex Johnson, a convicted coke dealer who has made roughly $3.5 million setting up bogus drug deals on behalf of the DEA without paying a dime in taxes.
At a sentencing hearing in June 2011, Judge Moody decided to throw out the gun charge. It seemed reasonable. Buju had never met or spoken with James Mack, a guy from Georgia who drove to Florida with a wad of cash and a gun to buy five kilos. Buju wasn't at the warehouse when the drug deal went down, so Moody decided that the government's argument that drugs and guns go together wasn't enough to convict Buju of possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug-trafficking offense.
After the gun charge was tossed and Buju was sentenced to ten years for the drug charges, his lawyers appealed. The petulant prosecutors responded by appealing the judge's decision to dismiss the gun count. At the time, David Markus, Buju's attorney, told New Times that the government's appeal smacked "of the same vindictiveness that we saw earlier."
In its appeal, the government maintained that the argument that guns and drugs go together is enough for a conviction. A few months later, a panel of three judges at an Atlanta appeals court came back and essentially said that the trial judge was wrong to dismiss the gun charge. In doing so, the appeals court sent the case back to Judge Moody, which opened the possibility of a new trial on the gun charge or a new trial on all charges.
Buju's legal team stressed in its request that the judge could and should consider the credibility of the witnesses, an important factor given that the entire case was built by a guy with a felony record who was ensnared in bankruptcy proceedings while he pursued Buju (the informant got $50,000 for the setup).
But just last week, the judge ruled that he was going to side with the Atlanta court and not revisit the gun charge. That gets us to today's filing, requesting that Moody revisit his decision to deny a new trial.
The implications are enormous -- a ten-year sentence could be extended to a 15-year sentence for a count that the judge originally did away with.
It should also be noted that Mack, who had the gun, had the money, and was buying drugs, got a far more lenient sentence than Buju through a plea deal.
For a better understanding of the history on the case, we suggest the following links:
Additional Buju Stories:
- Reggae Great Buju Banton Is Locked Up on Drug Charges. Was He Entrapped?
- Alex Johnson, Colombian Snitch in Case Against Buju Banton, Earned Millions From U.S. Government
- DOJ Continues to Press for Gun Charge Against Buju Banton
- Buju Banton's Legal Team Blasts Feds in Latest Arguments
- Buju Banton's Attorney: "We Had Ten Really Good Issues for the Appeal"
- Buju Banton's Appeal Pisses Off DOJ, Causes Government to File Its Own Appeal
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