The DEA has put its case against Buju Banton (real name Mark Myrie) on blast, and the details aren’t pretty. From the Jamaica Observer:
Yesterday, the DEA released a criminal complaint signed by Special Agent Daniel McCaffrey who said that on December 8 he and agents from the DEA Tampa district office, as well as officers from the Sarasota Police Department received information from a confidential source (CS) that Buju Banton and associates “wanted to purchase kilogramme amounts of cocaine in the Sarasota area of the Middle District of Florida”.
The CS, McCaffrey said, made telephone contact with Myrie at 8:00 am on December 8 and Myrie agreed to meet with the confidential source later that day in Sarasota.
The meeting, which McCaffrey said was captured on audio recording equipment, took place at approximately 1:31 pm at the La Tropicana de Havana restaurant and was observed by other DEA officers.
According to McCaffrey, the confidential source “instructed Myrie and associates to follow the CS to an alternate location to continue negotiations about obtaining large amounts of cocaine”.
They then went to a Sarasota Police Department controlled undercover warehouse where Myrie and Thomas inspected the drugs in the presence of undercover police Sergeant Ken Castro.
That meeting, McCaffrey said, was captured on audio and video recording equipment.
According to the complaint, Buju was shown a vehicle that had a compartment in it. Inside that compartment (allegedly): 20 kilos of cocaine:
“Thomas approached the undercover vehicle and after observing the hidden compartment, pulled one kilogramme of cocaine out of the vehicle and placed it on a nearby table for inspection,” the document stated.
“Thomas subsequently utilised a knife to cut open the noted kilogramme of cocaine and began to inspect, along with Myrie, the cocaine. Thomas subsequently handed the knife to Myrie who instantly wiped the blade of the knife with his finger and placed that finger in his mouth in what appeared to be an attempt to taste the cocaine,” the document stated.
The DEA said Myrie, the two other men and an unknown female were under surveillance after the DEA was informed a day before that they had made arrangements with the confidential source to buy the controlled substance.
Another meeting was arranged on December 9 at Applebee’s restaurant and was attended by Thomas and the CS. It was at that meeting, McCaffrey said, that Thomas informed the CS that the organisation he worked for wanted to first purchase five kilogrammes of cocaine. The CS met Mack outside the restaurant at the meeting as well.
The following day, before the deal was about to go down, the confidential source was fitted with audio and video recording equipment and followed by DEA agents to the undercover warehouse.
“Once inside the warehouse, Sergeant Castro, acting in an undercover capacity, observed Mack access a hidden compartment in the rear driver’s seat of the Honda sedan and pull out plastic bags which contained a large amount of US currency,” the document stated.
Mack is also accused of placing the wads of cash on a table before cutting open one kilogramme of cocaine which was among seven placed by the undercover agent to bait the purchase.
As he was about to inspect the drugs, the law enforcement officials signalled to others in hiding and Thomas and Mack were arrested without incident.
The agent reported that a handgun was found inside the Honda sedan which was being driven by Mack.
Buju wasn’t arrested at the scene, and apparently wasn’t present at the time the final deal went down (though legal experts say that won’t be enough to save him.) He was arrested later at his home. He denied the charges through his lawyer today.
Meanwhile, Jackie Charles, who reports on the Caribbean for the Miami Herald, had an in-depth story today about the conspiracy theories running rampant through the Jamaican and Jamaican-American communities. On radio, and burning up the blogs, apparently, there are Buju fans on both sides of the Florida Straight who think he was set up as payback for that song that will never die: “Boom Bye Bye.” From Jackie’s story:
On Monday, in South Florida and Jamaica, callers burned up radio airwaves, calling the arrest a “conspiracy” to get him after his recent controversy that included protests by local gay-rights advocates over a Halloween concert in downtown Miami.
“They are convinced it’s directly connected to the concert he had recently,” said Winston Barnes, a Miramar city commissioner and host of a popular Jamaican talk show on WAVS (1170-AM). “What they are saying is that he got off that time and they are fixing him now.”
Barnes tried without success to reason with callers, most of whom also viewed the arrest as an attack on reggae music. “It is one big mess.”
In Jamaica, people clamored for details of the arrest, decrying it on radio and on street corners.
“A lot of people are wondering if it has any links with the fight against him,” well-known Jamaican dub poet Mutabaruka said from Kingston. “We are trying to get more information.”
Banton’s arrest has been greeted by gleeful schadenfreude from gay bloggers, and the notion that he might be the victim of a vendetta by the law was greeted with heaping helpings of sarcasm and snark, which I suppose is to be expected (though one does wonder how many of these guys even listen to dancehall.) But probably to their chagrin, Buju has a bucket load of fans worldwide, and significant support in both the reggae and hip-hop communities. The Herald story quoted two Miami deejays, Papa Keith and DJ Irie of top rated hip-hop station 99 Jamz, likening Buju to Bob Marley. We could be in for yet another iteration of the black-gay divide, seen?
Meanwhile, Buju heads to court tomorrow. The drug charges could net him 20 years in prison.
BTW, Buju’s not the only reggae artist in trouble: another, Ninjaman, is about to go on trial for murder. But Ninjaman is nowhere near the magnitude of star that Buju is.