Buju Banton was pestered, flattered and fooled into the makings of a big cocaine deal by a career snitch whose US residency depended on the scalps he served up to the DEA. Buju didn’t stick around for the deal, and he didn’t even know it was going ahead, but his fate was sealed because his friend and driver, Ian Thomas, took the bait and agreed to buy 5kg of the drug. Compounding the injustice, Thomas’ contact, Mack, whom Buju had never heard of let alone met, had a gun in his car when he arrived with a suitcase full of cash, triggering Buju’s indictment on firearms charges as well.
As his release nears, the question lingers – how did this Grammy award winning artist end up wasting almost a decade in prison for a bit-part in a drug deal he knew almost nothing about?
Buju’s big mouth began the trouble – during a drinking session in first class on a flight from Madrid with a man he’d just met, he boasted (falsely) that he had been involved in smuggling cocaine through the Caribbean. That man happened to be Alex Johnson, who would later be the star witness for the prosecution at Buju’s trial. In the 1990s Johnson had been caught importing 700kg of cocaine for a Colombian cartel, but he convinced the authorities to make him a ‘confidential informant’ and had since got rich on commissions from the busts he arranged.
Buju was his next cashcow. For months Johnson pursued Buju with phone calls and the two met up a few times at restaurants, where talk inevitably turned to drug deals. “Do you have any contacts where I can get cocaine?”, Banton asked Johnson in one recorded conversation. He told Johnson he wanted to give him money so he could buy and sell the drugs, but did not want to be more involved.
Then one day Johnson turned up in Buju’s Florida neighbourhood and got him drinking. Buju believed Johnson was driving them to pick up a boat for a day of sailing when they arrived at a warehouse. Suddenly Johnson was speaking Spanish to a man in the shadows, who opened the boot of his car to reveal kilograms of neatly packaged white powder.
Thomas started negotiating price and quantity with Johnson. Buju didn’t attend a meeting the two had the following day, despite Johnson’s insistence, and nor was he there the day after that when the deal went down.
At trial and in several unsuccessful appeals, Banton’s lawyers portrayed him as a naïve bragger who was entrapped by a professional conman and whose only connection to the deal was having introduced the two protagonists to each other. Prosecutors, on the other hand, said Banton thought he was getting involved in a “no-risk” deal and planned to profit from the on-sale of the drugs.
Ultimately, a jury found Buju guilty and an appeal court affirmed his conviction. Crucially, the court concluded that all the bragging Buju did (while being recorded) provided enough basis for a ‘reasonable’ jury to find that he ‘knowingly and intentionally’ participated in the crime. In other words, because he talked a big game, the jury could assume he really knew what was going on – despite the prosecution’s failure to lead evidence showing that Buju’s boasts were anything more than hot air.
A similarly uncharitable interpretation of Buju’s boasting also put paid to his entrapment defence – Johnson had only engaged him on the topic of cocaine after Buju indicated his familiarity with drug dealing, and Buju had asked Johnson if he could purchase cocaine for him before Johnson offered to do so. Even the firearms charge stuck, due to a harsh interpretation of the 1946 Pinkerton case and a finding that Banton, with all his talk of drug deals, ought to have foreseen that Mack (who of course Banton did not know of) would bring a gun.
Both Thomas and Mack took plea deals and were out of custody before Banton’s appeal process had even run its course.
It is easy to see that Buju was punished for daring to fight the system and trying to clear his name.
Written by David Jackson (LLM LLB B.Com) An Australian Legal Practitioner admitted to practice in Victoria
MORE ON THE CASE:
Chronology of events
|July 2009||BB meets informant (AJ) on plane trip BB claims AJ “insisted that they meet to set up a cocaine purchase”|
|Dec 2009||Drug deal in Sarasota BB arrested and remanded in custody A federal grand jury indicted BB on two counts. Count 1 alleged BB and two co-defendants conspired to possess with intent to distribute 5kg of cocaine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §841(a)(1) and 846. Count 2 alleged BB aided and abetted his co-defendants in knowingly and intentionally possessing a firearm during the course of activity charged in Count One, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 2 and 924(d)."|
|Sep 2010||First trial ended in a mistrial after jury unable to reach a verdict – voted 7:5 for acquittal|
|Nov 2010||BB filed a motion for acquittal on Count 2 (firearm). Prosecution obtained a new indictment that added two additional counts and modified a third, the gun charge: Count 2 (modified) - possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense Count 3 - attempted possession with the intent to distribute cocaine Count 4 - using the wires to facilitate a drug trafficking offense. (The basis for the wires charge was that Buju had said that one line — "Yo, find out how much he wants" — in the warehouse)"|
|Jan 2011||BB brought a motion to dismiss the Superseding Indictment for Vindictiveness (Dkt. 220) and the Government's Response (Dkt. 227). BB asserted that "the court should presume that the new charges and modification were added by the government in retaliation for BB exercising his constitutional rights" in response to (1) the hung jury mistrial and (2) the filing of BB's motion to dismiss. Court denied the motion – insufficient evidence of vindictiveness.|
|Feb 2011||BB convicted after the 2nd trial – of 3 of 4 charges (acquitted of attempt to possess cocaine): Count 1 – conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute cocaine, Count 2 (modified) – possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense Count 4 – using a telephone to facilitate a drug trafficking offense Juror committed misconduct by conducting Internet research about Buju himself, the jury instructions, and the law. Found to be in contempt|
|June 2011||BB sentenced to 10 years in prison – minimum sentence possible. Judge dismissed the firearms conviction (Count 2 – which would have added 5 years)|
|June 2012||Appeal decision: BB appealed conviction on Counts 1 & 4; Prosecution appealed the dismissal of Count 2. Result: The convictions were affirmed. The judgment of acquittal was reversed, and the jury's gun charge conviction was remanded for the district court to rule on defendant's alternative motion for a new trial. Excerpts: On appeal, Myrie argues that the government did not establish that he was part of a drug conspiracy because there was never an agreement in place and mere presence is insufficient to sustain his conviction. Further, he argues that he did not aid and abet his codefendant, Ian Thomas, in using a phone to facilitate a drug crime because his only involvement with a phone was directing Thomas to ask a question with regard to a drug deal that never happened. Myrie also argues that his convictions should be overturned because Alexander Johnson, a government confidential informant, pursued him to engage in drug dealing over a six-month period, which constituted entrapment as a matter of law. "To sustain a conviction for conspiring to distribute [cocaine] the government must prove that 1) an agreement existed between two or more persons to distribute the drugs; 2) that the defendant at issue knew of the conspiratorial goal; and 3) that he knowingly joined or participated in the illegal venture." The defendant is considered to have participated in the conspiracy so long as the "defendant's actions facilitated [**5] the endeavors of other co-conspirators, or facilitated the venture as a whole." "It is irrelevant that particular conspirators may not have known other conspirators or participated in every stage of the conspiracy." Defendant showed familiarity with the drug trade, and his behavior was consistent with his described role of an outside investor. He introduced a co-defendant to the confidential informant (CI), vouched for his credibility, told the CI they had a done deal, thanked him for the opportunity to do the deal, and stood to gain drugs from the agreement. A reasonable jury could have concluded defendant knowingly and intentionally aided and abetted a co-defendant in using a phone to facilitate the deal because he directed the co-defendant to ask how much the buyer wanted. It was reasonably foreseeable that a co-conspirator would possess a gun in furtherance of the conspiracy, given defendant's familiarity with the drug trade and the gun being stored in the same trap compartment as the money. A successful entrapment defense requires two elements: 1) government inducement of the crime, and 2) lack of predisposition on the part of the defendant. The record demonstrates that the district court instructed the jury on Myrie's entrapment defense, and the jury rejected that defense. Johnson only engaged Myrie on the topic of cocaine after Myrie indicated his familiarity with drug dealing, and Myrie asked Johnson if he could purchase cocaine for him while discussing extensive drug operations. Myrie never told Johnson to stop asking him about a cocaine deal, and Myrie ultimately introduced Thomas, a broker, to Johnson. Though Myrie testified that he was just trying to outtalk Johnson and that he was not a drug dealer trying to conduct a drug deal, we assume that, based on the jury verdict, the jury disbelieved Myrie and Myrie's testimony can thus be used as substantive evidence of his guilt.|
|Aug 2012||Dismissal of BB’s motion for a new trial. Excerpts: In support of his motion for a new trial on the gun count, Myrie makes a strong argument: Of the two conspirators in the transaction (James Mack and Ian Thomas), Myrie knew only Thomas, and Thomas did not have a gun nor was there any evidence that Thomas had carried a gun on any previous occasion. Only Mack possessed a gun (albeit triple-wrapped in an enclosed compartment in his car). But the evidence is uncontradicted that Myrie did not know Mack, and had never even heard his name… It therefore is against the great weight of the evidence that it was reasonably foreseeable to Myrie that Mack would bring a gun to the transaction. The Eleventh Circuit disagreed with this Court and held that it was reasonably foreseeable that a co-conspirator would possess a gun in furtherance of the conspiracy.. Myrie, Thomas, and Johnson had discussed a deal where Thomas would bring in another party to purchase a large quantity of cocaine, and Special Agent McAffrey and Sergeant Hasley both testified that guns are common in drug deals, especially for deals comparable in size to the amount of drugs involved in this case. Given Myrie's familiarity with the drug trade, the jury could have reasonably concluded that the carrying or using of a gun by a co-conspirator was a reasonably foreseeable action of the conspiracy.|
|Aug 2012||BB unsuccessfully appealed the dismissal of his motion for a new trial.|
|Oct 2012||Re-sentenced following the appeal decision.|
|Dec 2012||BB unsuccessfully appealed to Supreme Court.|
|Feb 2014||Charles Ogletree, Harvard professor, began acting for BB Initial motion failed for procedural reasons.|
|Jan 2015||BB unsuccessfully appealed again for a new trial, based on juror misconduct. Appeal court found it lacked jurisdiction to determine the matter.|
|Oct 2015||Terry Wright (juror from Feb 2011) found guilty of criminal contempt of court for conducting research during jury deliberations|
Excerpts from articles
|1||Banton was found guilty of conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute cocaine, possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense and using a telephone to facilitate a drug trafficking offense. He was acquitted of attempted possession with the intent to distribute cocaine.|
|1||Assistant U.S. Attorney James Preston argued during trial that Banton portrayed himself as a broker of drug deals in several conversations with a confidential informant. Preston said Banton thought he was getting involved in a “no-risk” deal in which he would introduce a friend to a confidential informant, and then later collect money from drug transactions. Prosecutors acknowledge that Banton did not put any money into the drug deal, nor did he ever profit from it. Markus said his client is “a big talker” who admitted to trying to impress the confidential informant but wasn’t involved in any drug deal.|
|7-8||Banton and the informant, Alexander Johnson, met on a plane from Spain to Miami at the end of Banton's European tour last summer. Johnson testified Sept. 21 that they began talking about drugs early in the flight. "He told me he was involved in the transportation of drugs from Venezuela to St. Martin," Johnson said. "His involvement was he moved money himself for traffickers out of England." They exchanged phone numbers and agreed to meet the next day in Fort Lauderdale. Recordings of that July 27, 2009, meeting and other phone calls and conversations from July 2009 through December were played in court. "Do you have any contacts where I can get cocaine?" Banton asked Johnson in one recorded conversation. He told Johnson he wanted to give him money so he could buy and sell the drugs - but the singer did not want to be more involved. "All I do is finance," Banton said. … Banton and Johnson discussed a variety of enterprises over several meetings in restaurants, such as selling drugs in Europe, having Banton finance a drug deal, buying drugs from Colombia and the Caribbean island of St. Martin, using Johnson's boat to transport drugs, and giving Johnson a cut of a drug deal. … Johnson also testified that Banton introduced him to Ian Thomas, a co-defendant, who the singer said had contacts to sell cocaine. A video played for the jury of the meeting at the Sarasota warehouse with Johnson and an undercover police officer appeared to show Thomas opening a kilo of cocaine, with Banton peering over his shoulder. Thomas then appears to hand the knife he used to cut open the drugs to Banton, who tasted the drugs with a finger. Also in the video, Johnson and Thomas negotiate the price and quantity of a shipment of cocaine.|
|17||At Tampa federal court in Florida, Judge James S Moody gave Banton – real name Mark Myrie – the most lenient sentence permitted for the drugs charges. Judge Moody threw out the gun conviction, which would have extended the sentence by five years, accepting Banton was not carrying a gun and did not know his confederates were doing so. Allowing for time served and good behaviour, his attorney said he could be free in six years.|
|21-22||Rather than tour and perform, Buju has recently been spending his days at the Federal Correctional Institution in South Miami-Dade, chipping away at a decadelong sentence and penning lyrics to new songs he won't be able to record for years. And it now seems inevitable that he'll be forced to spend even more time behind bars than anyone — even the trial judge and jurors — anticipated. On October 30, he will return to a federal courtroom in Tampa, where Judge James Moody is expected to add five years to his sentence on a dubious firearm charge. But exclusive interviews conducted by New Times with three jurors reveal that the reggae star nearly walked free after a 2011 retrial. Most alarming: All three jurors interviewed say the gun charge is without merit. "When we first got back into the room," recalls juror Brian Postlewait, an IT specialist, "it was ten to two for not guilty." At first, Postlewait voted against conviction during deliberations, which lasted three days in February 2011. In a backroom of Tampa's courthouse, the jurors pored over the instructions, dissected the transcripts, watched and rewatched grainy surveillance video captured by the DEA, and vigorously debated the four charges — attempting to possess and distribute cocaine, conspiring to possess with the intent to distribute cocaine, using a phone to facilitate a drugtrafficking offense, and possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug-trafficking offense. They listed each count on a whiteboard accompanied by check boxes and consulted with the judge to clarify a few aspects of the case. Slowly, momentum shifted in favor of the prosecution. Ultimately, it was the video of Buju in a warehouse dabbing his tongue with cocaine that sealed his fate. Jury instructions required them to convict on the gun charges if they believed the conspiracy claims, Postlewait says: "Once we got him on the first main charge, the gun [charge] had to go with it... which was unfortunate." … Alex Johnson, the informant who has earned roughly $3.5 million for snitching on people over the past 14 years… The jury found Buju guilty on three of the four charges, but when sentencing came around in June 2011, Judge Moody threw out the gun allegation, which carried a mandatory minimum sentence of five years. It seemed reasonable: Buju never met or spoke with James Mack, a man who was arrested after driving from Atlanta to Florida with $135,000 cash and a gun stashed in a hidden compartment within his car to buy five kilos of coke. In fact, Buju wasn't even at the drug bust, and it's still unclear whether he knew the deal was taking place. After the gun count was dismissed, Buju was sentenced to ten years on the two remaining drug charges. This summer, however, an Atlanta appeals court, at the behest of the federal prosecutor, overturned Moody's decision. The judge has few options but to add the mandatory five years to Buju's sentence later this month.|
|24||United States (US) authorities appear to have shaved almost two months off the prison sentence of Jamaican Grammy Award-winning entertainer Buju Banton. The US Federal Bureau of Prison indicated on its website yesterday that the artiste, whose given name is Mark Myrie, is to be released on December 8, 2018. The Bureau of Prisons had originally indicated that Buju would be released from the McRae correctional institution in Atlanta, Georgia, in February 2019. … The reduced sentence comes months after the US Attorney’s Office in Florida announced an agreement in which it says the entertainer agreed to waive all future appeals of his 2011 conviction on cocaine distribution and conspiracy charges. In return, prosecutors agreed to drop a firearms charge against him.|
|35||Last week, the same judge who presided over Buju Banton's two trials and sentenced him to 10 years in prison found that one of the jurors, Terry Wright, committed egregious misconduct and found her guilty of criminal contempt of court for conducting research during jury deliberations in direct contravention of the court's orders. Despite this extraordinary decision, which would cause any reasonable person to doubt the integrity of the verdict, Buju will get no relief.|
|37||His troubles began on a flight from Madrid to Miami in July 2009. Alexander Johnson, a paid informant, was sitting in the next seat, and their talk turned to cocaine. The two kept in touch. In December, Mr Myrie was caught on video in a Florida warehouse tasting a cocaine sample from a knife. Two days later, two alleged associates of Mr Myrie's bought $135,000 of drugs from undercover employees of America's Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). They were arrested immediately, and Mr Myrie was held at his Florida home the next day. At his trial, Mr Myrie admitted that he had “stupidly” discussed cocaine deals, but never intended to see them through. He said he had been simply been “too trusting”, and his lawyers argued that the DEA had entrapped him into a crime he would not otherwise have committed.|
|48-59||Buju Banton had been blowing off the man he knew as "Junior" for months. The 38-year-old reggae sensation was always ready with an excuse to rush off the phone or cancel plans — he had rehearsal, he was getting ready for a tour, he was too tired. But Junior, a stout, blockheaded Colombian, had been relentless over the past week, calling every day like a needy girlfriend. He laid the guilt trip on thick, saying he'd made a special trip to Florida's west coast and even borrowed a boat so he could catch up with Buju over drinks. "For like five months, [he] has been calling me repeatedly, and when he said 'I came all this way to see you,' I felt a little bit bad in myself," Buju would later recall in his gravelly Jamaican accent. "And I, I felt sorry a bit for him talking to me like that, saying that he came all this way to see me and I wouldn't even give him the time of day." Buju caved. On December 8, 2009, he popped on his swim trunks, pulled a pair of jeans over them, and, along with two friends — a female companion and Buju's longtime driver and pal, Ian Thomas — jumped into his silver Land Rover with a "Jah One" vanity plate. They left his Tamarac duplex and started the drive to Naples for a day of fun in the sun. As the exit sign for Naples came into view, Buju called Junior to give him a heads up that they would soon arrive. But plans had changed, Junior said. They needed to drive to Sarasota and meet him at a restaurant. From there, they would grab keys for the boat from a friend. Buju, in a frustrated, almost defeated tone, conceded to the extra 120 miles. In Sarasota, Buju introduced Thomas to Junior over margaritas. A short while later, after leaving a restaurant, Buju and the men found themselves in a dimly lit warehouse, the shutter door clanking down and locking behind them. Inside, a stranger lurked in the corner and started speaking to Junior in Spanish, leaving Buju clueless. There was no boat or keys in sight. … Junior and the stranger avoided answering him. Then the stranger walked over to a parked car and opened a hidden compartment in the trunk to reveal 20 plastic-wrapped kilos of cocaine. "I felt my stomach turn," Buju testified months later. "I tried to play it down and be calm. I keep telling myself... be cool, be cool, it's gonna be, just be cool." Buju's friend, Thomas, seemed adept at navigating this type of environment. He plucked a kilo from the pile and plopped it down on a workbench. Buju followed closely behind, peeking over his friend's shoulder as he made a small incision in the packaging. Thomas dabbed a fingertip of the powder on his tongue and proffered the blade to Buju so he could follow suit. After tasting the cocaine, Buju sank into a chair in the corner of the room. He fiddled and tried to occupy himself while Thomas pulled out a phone and started negotiating prices with an apparent buyer in Georgia. … The next day, Thomas drove back out to Sarasota alone and met Junior at an Applebee's for a round of negotiations. Junior pushed to get Buju involved in that day's antics. "He does not want to do nothing, man," Thomas responded. "That's not him, you know? Music, eat, sleep, shit every day." Junior then agreed to sell five kilos to Thomas' connection in Georgia. Junior left the restaurant, called his supervisor at the Drug Enforcement Agency, and said it was a "miracle" that he held onto the deal. The day after that, on the morning of December 10, 2009, authorities busted Thomas and a guy from Georgia named James Mack at the Sarasota warehouse, where the two were caught with a gun and $135,000 in cash while trying to buy several kilos. Cops then pulled Buju from his Tamarac home and placed him under arrest on two charges: conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute cocaine and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense — even though the firearm at issue was carried by Mack, not Buju. Buju and his legal team would argue in court that he was not a drug dealer, just a boaster, and that Junior was a conniving, mendacious man with an extensive criminal history and tremendous financial motive to see Buju arrested. Whatever the truth, the saga sheds light on how far the government will go and how much it will spend to win a battle in the war on drugs. It's now up to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals to decide whether the DEA entrapped one of the most successful reggae artists in history. … The man seated next to him told Buju to try red wine because "that's a man's drink." The two hit it off. They drank for eight and a half hours, going from wine to scotch to beer. They got so drunk and loud that the flight attendant told them to settle down. When a tipsy Buju was stopped coming back into first class from coach, the stranger vouched he was indeed supposed to be there, a gesture that made a lasting impression. The guy — his name, he said, was Junior — told Buju he ran a successful fishing business. He also had a passing knowledge of the reggae industry — he namedropped Lloyd Evans, a manager whom Buju had looked up to as a young man — and said that he had powerful friends in the recording industry out in Los Angeles, a detail that enticed Buju. These were the first of many drunken lies Alex Johnson would tell. As the plane neared the American coast, Johnson pulled out a wad of cash and gestured to Buju that he was bringing money in from other, illicit ventures. This piqued the musician's curiosity. A boozed-up Buju, not wanting to be outdone by a fisherman, bragged that he too had his hand in something on the side — a drug ring that moved kilos from Venezuela through St. Martin to Europe. At the end of the flight, they exchanged numbers and went their respective ways. … [Next day they catch up for more drinks] Realizing that he was bombed, Buju cut himself off. He went outside to smoke a spliff and catch a ride with his friend. Johnson rushed over before they could leave. "Excuse me, excuse me. I hate to, I hate to bring up the cocaine," Johnson said in his harsh Colombian accent. It was the first mention of drugs all day. Just like on the flight, Buju started rambling about his supposed drug-dealing ventures. He portrayed himself as a Bond-type villain, leading Johnson to believe that he toured the world with his band by day and moved thousands upon thousands of kilos throughout the world by night. The drug talk quickly fizzled, though, and Johnson started chatting about his boat and how much fun they would have on it one day. … Buju had enough of hanging out, getting drunk, and playing Scarface. Johnson called him throughout August, September, October, and November. Buju politely made himself unavailable until the fateful day when he accepted an invitation to Sarasota, talked more about coke over margaritas, and then got locked in a warehouse with 20 kilos and two men he presumed to be armed Colombian drug dealers. … Buju and his defense attorney swore the singer was just a boaster who talked a good game. Markus set out to destroy the credibility of the government's star witness, Alex Johnson. For that, he had plenty of ammunition. Johnson was born in Colombia in October 1949. "This con artist, Alexander Johnson, imported thousands of kilograms of cocaine and marijuana into this country in the '80s and '90s. Not a little here, a little there. Thousands," Markus explained to the jury in his opening statement. At the time, Johnson operated under the street name "El Gordo" and worked as a transporter for the Colombian cartels. Then, in 1993, U.S. authorities arrested him while he was trying to import 700 kilos. Facing life in prison and overwhelming evidence of his guilt, Johnson decided to cooperate. He was able to get the sentence reduced to 20 years, but that was still too long for his liking. So he pointed his finger at others and got another ten years knocked off. Then, after serving fewer than three years, Johnson convinced the feds that he would be of greater use on the outside. He walked from prison in 1996, getting his probation waived in the process. Johnson was a free man with a new job title: confidential informant. He has excelled as a CI, working for the DEA, the FBI, and other national and local law enforcement agencies. Johnson isn't paid a salary for this gig; rather, he gets a cut of the money seized in the busts he arranges. It's like a commission, and he has earned nearly $3.5 million in commission — enough to buy a plush home with a swimming pool for $890,000.. "Now, you will hear when people make money and when they work, they pay taxes. Not Alex Johnson... He owes almost $200,000 to the IRS," Markus said to the jury. "Alex Johnson isn't going to pay the IRS, isn't going to pay his mortgage, isn't going to pay his credit cards. You know what Alex Johnson did? Filed for bankruptcy last year." Markus noted that the snitch earned $50,000 for the Buju bust. He then revealed that Johnson isn't a U.S. citizen and will never be one. Immigration and Customs Enforcement permanently barred him from obtaining citizenship because of his felony conviction. But he can't go back to Colombia because of a potential bounty on his head for snitching, so he got the DEA to request that ICE not deport him. Unless he keeps bringing in cases, there's little incentive for ICE to keep good on its favor. Markus isn't the first to uncover these flaws. About a decade ago, Johnson had set up a young man by the name of Andrew W. Smith on a cocaine deal. Smith did not fight the accusations. In a lengthy sentencing hearing, the judge on the case, Ann Aldrich, blasted the government's reliance on Johnson. "The court found Mr. Johnson's testimony not to be entirely truthful based upon Mr. Johnson's extensive criminal history, his career of defrauding others, his financial incentives to provide testimony favorable to the government, and his demeanor during his testimony," Aldrich said. "In fact, the jury declined to believe Johnson's testimony that Mr. Smith possessed cocaine. The court, like the jury in this case, has no reason to take Mr. Johnson's word over Mr. Smith's." In Buju's case, the judge blocked this tidbit from entering his courtroom. The jury would also never learn that the prosecutor and the informant have been working together for at least a decade and have never lost a case. … When DEA Special Agent Dan McCaffrey took the stand, he acknowledged that the agency never produced a single piece of evidence to prove Buju's boasts that he had previously moved drugs from Venezuela or invested in coke deals. In fact, the government did not bother to search his home, bank accounts, computers, or text messages after arresting him. McCaffrey also explained that getting Buju into the warehouse without ever mentioning that he would be seeing kilos was a strategic move called a "flash show" that's used to mitigate the chances of snitches getting robbed. … Then, on the third day of the trial, Buju waived his Fifth Amendment right and sat in front of the jury to emphatically declare his innocence. "I had no intention of doing a drug deal, from the sincerity of my heart," Buju said. "I was just talking, drinking with this guy, talking, talking because that's what he always talks about. Now I know he was doing it with a motive in mind." He told the jury that he had never been to Venezuela, had never seen $50 million in his life, and had no idea that he was going to see cocaine when he drove out to Sarasota. He said he talked the talk but did not walk the walk. He acknowledged that the transcripts and recordings looked bad, though, and apologized repeatedly.|
Riddim Yard is presented live in Melbourne, Australia by Rick Howe every Friday from 11am-1pm on PBS 106.7 FM and online at www.pbsfm.org.au