Buju Banton's Legal Team Asks for a New Trial
Buju Banton's attorney on Tuesday filed a motion with the Middle District of Florida requesting that the incarcerated reggae star be granted a new trial.
The filing follows a recent decision from an Atlanta appeals court that affirmed the guilty verdict and overturned a Tampa judge's decision to throw out a gun charge.
"We're going to keep fighting for Buju because he shouldn't have to do 10 years in prison, let alone 15," Buju's attorney, David Oscar Markus, said in an email.
Last February, a federal jury found Buju guilty on three charges: two drug counts and a gun count. Six months later, when sentencing came around, the judge threw out the gun charge because there was no evidence linking Buju to the gun other than the government's vague argument that "guns and drugs go together."
Buju was not at the drug deal when it took place and may not have known it was occurring. During the retrial, the government said there was no evidence showing that Buju ever met or spoke with James Mack, a man who drove from Atlanta with a gun his car to buy five kilos from a confidential informant.
It seemed reasonable that the Tampa judge tossed the gun charge, which carries an additional five-year sentence. But now that the appeal's court in Atlanta has overturned the decision, Buju's sentenced could be extended from ten years to 15 years.
That's why Markus filed a motion today asking that his client gets a new trial on all charges. If the court refuses, Markus requested that a new trial be granted on the gun charge alone.
Markus notes in the motion that if the judge denies a new trial on the gun count, the court "would have to sentence [Buju] to a consecutive five-year sentence (on top of his current 10 year sentence)."
Markus also stressed in the newly filed motion that in reviewing a request for a new trial, the court can consider the "credibility of the witnesses."
That's important given that the government's star witness was Alex Johnson, a felon who has earned $3.5 million in untaxed income while working as a snitch.
While Johnson was pursuing Buju, he owed the IRS nearly $200,000 in unpaid taxes. Johnson is not a U.S. citizen, but he can't be sent back to Colombia because the cartels he used to work for likely have a bounty on his head. Past judges have questioned his credibility and blasted the government's reliance on him.
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