bujubanton09282010

Buju Banton Convicted, Attorneys Plan Appeal

Just a week after celebrating his Grammy win for Best Reggae Album, Buju Banton was convicted today by a 12-person jury in a Federal Court in Tampa, Florida. After deliberating for eleven hours, the jurors found Buju—born Mark Myrie—guilty of conspiracy to possess five or more kilos of cocaine, of using a telephone to facilitate drug-trafficking, and of possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug dealing offense.

Buju was found not guilty of possession with intent to distribute cocaine—and in fact, he never did possess the drugs in question. The artist has maintained his innocence from day one, and his defense attorneys argued that he was targeted and entrapped by federal agents. Many reggae artists have described the case as part of an ongoing war against the music. In a post-Grammy statement, Buju Banton's management called the charges against the artist "outlandish."

Showing no emotion after the verdict was read, Buju embraced his lead defense attorney David Markus, then blew kisses to his supporters, many of whom left the courtroom in tears. This was Buju's second trial on drug-related charges stemming from his arrest in December 2009. The first time around, jurors were unable to reach a unanimous verdict and the judge declared a mistrial.

"We are all extremely disappointed and emotional," Markus told the AP. "The only person who seems to be okay is Buju. He told us he was happy that he fought, knowing he was innocent." Markus also shared a statement from his client with Jamaica Observer reporter Paul Henry, who has been covering the case since last year: "Our life and our destiny are sometimes pre-destined," Buju said. "No matter where this journey takes me, remember I fought the good fight."

Sentencing has not yet been scheduled, but the 37-year-old reggae star could face 15 years or more in federal prison. Markus plans to appeal the conviction, which was based solely upon phone calls and video footage recorded by a paid DEA informant named Alexander Johnson. A convicted Colombian drug dealer, Johnson was arrested bringing hundreds kilos of cocaine into the U.S. in 1994. But instead of going to prison he went to work for the DEA, using hidden cameras and tape recorders to build cases for the Feds, and earning a handsome living for his work.

Johnson testified that he met the artist in June 2009 when they just happened to be seated next to each other on a first-class flight from Spain to the U.S following Buju Banton's summer tour. The confidential informant pursued the reggae star for months, and although Buju avoided his calls, Johnson did record Buju making various unsubstantiated claims on tape. Assistant U.S. Attorney James Preston argued that Buju Banton portrayed himself as a broker of drug deals in several conversations with the confidential informant, who was paid $50,000 for building a case against the reggae superstar. Markus said his client was a "big talker" but hardly a drug dealer.

The informant eventually lured Buju to a Sarasota warehouse—allegedly to look at a boat. But when Buju and two friends arrived, undercover agents showed him and two associates bricks of cocaine. The artist was caught on video tasting the cocaine—an act Buju's attorney called "the worst mistake of his life"—but he was not present when two other men went back to the warehouse with money to buy drugs and were taken into custody and subsequently pleaded guilty. Buju was arrested the following day at his Florida home. Prosecutors presented no evidence suggesting that Buju put any money into the drug deal, or stood to benefit from it in any way.

"This was complete entrapment," said one Buju supporter, who attended all four days of his second trial, and noted that there were three African-American women but no Black males among the jurors. "I can't believe those jurors were in the same courtroom as I was."

Buju Banton "Not An Easy Road" from his classic 1995 album Til Shiloh:

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HBO Releases 'Leaving Neverland' Trailer And March Premiere Date

Since the reveal of a contentious documentary on Michael Jackson was announced, the conversation surrounding HBO's upcoming project has continued to increase. Now, the powerhouse cable network unveiled the Leaving Neverland trailer which depicts the recollections of two men who were reportedly sexually abused when they were boys by Jackson.

Within the trailer, James Safechuck and Wade Robson discuss certain moments that they held as secrets for decades. "He told me if they ever found out what we were doing, he and I would go to jail for the rest of our lives," Wade says in the visual. The Dan Reed-directed film also features interviews with the two men's families and significant others.

In response to the doc's Sundance premiere, Jackson's family issued a statement calling out the reel's developers. "The creators of this film were not interested in the truth," the family's statement reads. "They never interviewed a single solitary soul who knew Michael except the two perjurers and their families. That is not journalism, and it's not fair, yet the media are perpetuating these stories."

Watch the trailer below ahead of its two-night premiere on March 3-4.

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Andrew Burton

Boyfriend Suspected Of Killing Girlfriend And Her Son Jumps In Front Of Train

An ex-con who's suspected of brutally beating his girlfriend and her son to death committed suicide by jumping in front of Metro-North train six hours after the murders.

According to The New York Daily News, Hector Cruz, 51, is believed to have stabbed and used a workout weight to bludgeon Marisol Ortiz, 51 and her 14-year-old son Alanche del Orbe in their Bronx apartment.

Ortiz's 21-year-old daughter, Chantal del Orbe, found the bodies after returning home from a friend's house. Before bursting into tears, Chantal hung a birthday banner over a makeshift memorial created for her brother who was killed a day before his 15th birthday.

“He was sweet all the time,” she said of her brother. “It was all love in that house.”

Grieving friends, family and those in the neighborhood say they have no doubt Cruz is the killer. “Go in peace my aunt with my nephew. Wow, I feel so powerless why do things like this have to happen. My God. Mourning. What a great loss," Emiluz Ortiz wrote on Facebook.

Cruz was released from prison in 2016 after serving seven years for first-degree assault, and while speaking with the Daily News Chantal said Cruz showcased signs of possessiveness.

“He was a bit jealous. He was strange. He would look through (Ortiz’s) phone but he was never aggressive. He always said he wanted the family united,” she said. “He never really convinced me. Days before he was acting strange.”

The crime was so severe, Ortiz’s cousin Haydee Leonardo said it's affected the funeral.

“They’re going to cremate the bodies because they were told that their faces were so brutally beaten, you can’t see who they were. You can’t see their faces,” he said.

Cruz was reportedly killed by a northbound Metro-North train at the Hartsdale station Sunday morning (Feb. 17) at 9:45 AM.

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LeBron James Announced As A&R Of 2 Chainz's 'Rap Or Go To The League' Album

When he's not on the court, LeBron James spends his time posting videos of him vibing out to some of rap's most recent singles. Now, he's taking his ear for standout cuts a step further by becoming the A&R for 2 Chainz's forthcoming album.

On Mar. 1, the Atlanta native's Rap Or Go To The League project will hit streaming services and music store shelves after being teased for some time. "It's been quite the journey to get here," the "Spend It" rapper wrote on Twitter Tuesday afternoon (Feb. 19). "All night studio sessions, reflecting, & opening up on these records or as I call it therapy! This is my each one teach one body of work, I wanna celebrate black excellence!"

An Apple Music documentary will also accompany the album's debut. In a 60-second teaser, viewers witness Chainz and James in the studio discussing the possibility of a deluxe album and selecting guest artists for features. Rap Or Go To The League is Chainz's fifth studio album, what's being described as "his most personal, most lyrical, most soulful to date."

The soundscape arrives after Chainz released two EPs last year: The Play Don't Care Who Makes It and Hot Wings Are A Girl's Best Friend.

It’s been quite the journey to get here. All night studio sessions, reflecting, & opening up on these records or as I call it therapy! This is my each one teach one body of work, I wanna celebrate black excellence! ..... “Rap Or Go To The League” the album A&R by @KingJames 3/1 pic.twitter.com/08Y2fYKJ6X

— Tity Boi (2 Chainz) (@2chainz) February 19, 2019

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