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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Dr. Dre Released From Hospital, Will Receive 24-Hour Home Care

Dr. Dre was released from L.A. Cedars Sinai Medical Center on Friday (Jan. 15), nearly two weeks after he suffered a reported brain aneurysm. Ice T confirmed the news tweeting, “Just FaceTimed with @drdre. He just made it home. Safe and looking good.”

The 55-year-old music mogul will remain under 24-hour care for the next few weeks as medical professionals continue to monitor his progress. Doctors are still unclear on what caused the aneurysm.

Dre’s hospital release comes days after new details were revealed in his divorce from estranged wife, Nicole Young. According to court documents publicized this week, Nicole accuses Dre, birth name Andre Young, of putting a gun to her head in 2000 and 2001. She also details other alleged abuse incidents in 1995 (before they were married) and in 2016, when he allegedly punched her in the face and kicked down her door.

The Grammy winner has denied Nicole’s abuse claims.

Nicole and Dre tied the knot in 1996. The pair share two adult children, Truice and Truly. Nicole filed for divorce last summer.

In addition to demanding that Dre cover her legal fees, Nicole wants the court to take the abuse allegations into account when “awarding support and fees.” Dre has already agreed to pay $500,000 of Nicole’s legal bills and $2 million in temporary spousal support.

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Cardi B Lands Leading Role In Comedy ‘Assisted Living’

Cardi B is making her way back to the big screen. The Bronx native officially landed her first leading role in the upcoming Paramount comedy, Assisted Living.

According to Variety, Cardi will play a small time crook struggling to find a hiding place after her latest heist fails. Her character, “Amber,” disguises herself as an elderly woman and hides out at her grandmother's nursing home. The film is described as a “raucous comedy” similar to Mrs. Doubtfire and Sister Act.

Paramount acquired the rights to Assisted Living in 2019. The film’s script was penned by This Is Us writer, Kay Oyegun.

Cardi, 28, made her film debut in the 2019 celeb-heavy stripper flick, Hustlers. The “WAP” rapper appears to have hinted at her Assisted Living role in a recent interview with Billboard where she dished on filming scenes for Fast & Furious 9.

“After ‘Hustlers’ I filmed a little bit for 'Fast & Furious' so I felt like ‘I’m ready for this,’ I knew what to expect,” she explained. “But the characters were a little different so I was like ‘Oh wow, I’m going to need more acting classes.’ I’m planning on doing a movie this year and I’m going to be the lead role so I’m like ‘I need to execute this flawlessly.’”

Besides film, Cardi was a judge on the Netflix completion show, Rhythm & Flow, and landed her own Facebook Watch series, Cardi Tries.

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Wendy Williams Reveals She Was Date Raped By ‘80s R&B Singer

Wendy Williams revealed that she was date raped by  ‘80s R&B singer, Sherrick, early in her radio career. The talk show host shared the story with reporters while promoting her Lifetime biopic Wendy Williams: The Movie on Tuesday (Jan. 12).

“He mesmerized me with his twinkling eyes,” she recalled. “He flipped the interview around to where he was interviewing me — I was just gaga over this man and he asked me to go to an album release party with him that night.

“Before the party, I was date raped by him,” said Williams.

Sherrick, born Lamotte Smith, was a member of the group Kagny, whose song is featured on The Last Dragon soundtrack. He signed to Warner Bros. Records in 1987 and scored a marginal hit with the single “Just Call” off his debut self-titled album. Sherrick struggled with sobriety but declared himself “drug-free” before dying of unknown causes in 1999.

Williams says that she was raped in Sherrick’s Washington D.C. hotel room and it, unfortunately, wasn’t her first time being sexually assaulted. The New Jersey native had been date raped in college. “Those types of things happen to girls all the time and they’ve been happening a lot, to a lot of our mothers, grandmothers, great-grandmothers, and their great-great-grandmothers too.”

From the sounds of it, Sherrick's widow doesn't exactly believe Williams' story. She not only questioned Williams' account but wondered why she waited so long to go public, and why she didn't call police at the time of the incident.

“As I will never minimize or dismiss the horrid actions of sexual assault, I am saddened that Ms. Williams feels the need to publicly make these allegations when the man she is accusing is no longer on this earth to defend himself,” Lynne Conner Smith said in a statement to Page Six.  “Our family does not know Ms. Williams and are not aware of any relationship or encounter they may have had.”

The sexual assault will be chronicled in the film, as well as other details from Williams' life -- like her rise to talk show fame, her battle with drug addiction, and marriage to ex-husband Kevin Hunter.

Wendy Williams: The Movie premieres on Lifetime on Jan. 30.

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