Buju Banton Pleads Not Guilty to Drug Charges
Reggae singer Buju Banton entered a not guilty plea during his arraignment Thursday (Jan. 7) on charges he purchased cocaine. His lawyer, David Oscar Markus, requested that Banton be transported back to Tampa, Florida where the indictment was filed. Markus stated that his client would not be striking a deal with prosecutors on grounds that he is innocent. "We will be going to trial," he explained. "He did not commit the crimes he's charged with. He was not in any conspiracy."
Banton did not seek bail, and would be held by immigration officials if he were to be bonded out of jail. Instead, Markus said that his focus will be on lifting the detainer rather than seeking a bail amount. "There should be a presumption of innocence. Instead there is a presumption of guilt in immigration," he said.
The 36-year-old, born Mark Anthony Myrie, was arrested Dec. 10 on charges he attempted to buy over five kilos of cocaine from an undercover officer in Sarasota, Florida. As previously reported his record label, Gargamel Records, threw their support behind Banton. "This is Buju and we're going to get him the top legal representation there is," said label president Tracii McGregor. "We are ready to fight!"
Despite his legal troubles, Banton's latest release 'Rasta Got Soul,' received a Grammy in the Reggae Album of the Year Category. The singer's music has previously been met with protest following the 1992 release of the song 'Boom Bye Bye,' deemed by some as promoting violence against homosexuals.