Longform

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

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"I'll take anything but guilty," Markus said, his head cocked toward Buju.

"Will you charge for a third trial?" Buju asked, cracking a smile and prompting everyone at the table to explode with laughter.

The next morning, a Friday, the jurors marched into deliberation. Their debate stretched over President's Day Weekend and into late Tuesday afternoon.

Buju was found guilty on three of the four charges, including using the wires to facilitate a drug trafficking offense. Ian Thomas and James Mack, the two men who were actually on the phones and caught trying to buy kilos at the Sarasota warehouse, never even faced this charge. They got four and six years, respectively, through plea deals. Buju was sentenced to ten years.

The "Voice of Jamaica" is now silenced, confined to a cell in the Federal Correctional Institution in Miami, where he is one year into his sentence. His Tamarac duplex has been foreclosed on, and his community in Jamaica no longer has its one-man social service. His last-ditch hope is that an appeals court in Atlanta throws out his case due to one of the nearly ten issues raised in his appeal, ranging from entrapment to prosecutorial vindictiveness. But that could take another year at least.

Meanwhile, Alex Johnson is free to wander the world in pursuit of his next target. His life goes on behind his gated community. He is dragging out his fight with the IRS so he'll never have to pay a dime in taxes on the millions he earned by urging other people to commit crimes.

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Chris Sweeney