Buju Banton Begins Retrial, Additional Charges Added
After taking home the Best Reggae Album Grammy for 'Before the Dawn' last night, Buju Banton is back to fighting for his freedom. Banton was tried last year on charges of conspiracy to possess and distribute cocaine, and aiding and abetting the possession of a firearm, but the case was brought to mistrial when the jury was unable to reach an unanimous verdict.
Jury selection for Buju's new trial began earlier today in Tampa, Fla., the state where Buju was arrested for allegedly possessing and attempting to distribute over 5 kilos of cocaine. The selection process took two hours, during which time 14 jurors were selected to sit on the panel for the retrial. Though the jury is largely Caucasian, the jurors have sworn in court that race will not play a factor in the case, nor will Buju's celebrity status have an impact on their decision.
"February 14 is Valentine's Day. We hope the jury gives us some love," says Buju's attorney, David Markus. "Buju is optimistic and hopeful. He is in good spirits. He is a rock. No one realizes how hard it is to fight the federal government in one trial, let alone two."
In the retrial, Buju faces the additional charges of attempted possession with the intent to distribute cocaine, possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug-trafficking offense and using the wires to facilitate a drug-trafficking offense. "The prosecution is trying the oldest trick in the book: They are throwing everything against the wall hoping that something sticks and it's not going to work," said Markus.
The retrial began at 1PM EST today and is expected to last a week. Buju faces 20 years in prison, if convicted.
Watch Buju Banton's 'Wanna Be Loved'