Buju Banton Gets Ten Years in Federal Prison on Drug Convictions

Reggae superstar Buju Banton will spend the next decade in federal lockup, a judge in Tampa ruled this morning. The sentence comes after Banton -- who played to a packed crowd at Bayfront in January and won a Grammy this year -- was convicted of trying to engineer a cocaine deal.

The judge was unswayed by pleas for leniency from everyone from

Danny Glover to Stephen Marley, instead siding with prosecutor James

Preston's arguments that his musical career shouldn't bear on the


"This is not about Buju Banton the reggae singer," Preston said. "This is about Mark Myrie the drug defendant."

Banton, who lives in Tamarac, was sucked into his cocaine-deal undoing when he sat next to a government informant named Alexander Johnson on a flight back from Europe. Johnson persuaded Banton to stay in touch about setting up a potential cocaine deal.

The feds later recorded the reggae star visiting a warehouse where he believed the cocaine was stored and talking about a deal with Johnson.

Banton argued he "was trying to impress" Johnson and never intended to actually follow through on a drug deal, but jurors were unswayed. They convicted Banton of three felonies in February.

The judge actually could have layed a much stiffer sentence on Banton this morning; ten years was the minimum, according to federal guidelines.

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Tim Elfrink is a former investigative reporter and managing editor for Miami New Times. He has won the George Polk Award and was a finalist for the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting.
Contact: Tim Elfrink