Buju admits naïvety, testifies US gov't acting unfairly
Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter
FOR THE second time in five months, Buju Banton will this morning walk into the United States Middle District Court, Florida Division, in Tampa wondering if he has done enough to convince the jury he did not conspire to purchase or traffic cocaine in the United States.
Buju, whose real name is Mark Myrie, will have a final bite at the cherry when he returns to the witness box to testify on his own behalf. The defence is expected to close its case then pave the way for judge James Moody to give instructions to the jury.
The last time a jury heard the case, it failed to reach a unanimous verdict, resulting in a hung jury.
The Jamaican reggae artiste spent four and a half hours on the stand yesterday answering questions from his attorney, David Oscar Markus, and prosecutor Jim Preston.
Under cross-examination from Preston, Buju said had it not been for Alexander Johnson pretending to be his friend because "he had his own motivations", he would not be in court as a defendant.
"It is my fault. I am too trusting," Buju said. "If I did not let Alexander Johnson into my life, I would not have been here."
Buju has denied the charges of conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute cocaine; attempted possession with the intent to distribute cocaine; possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug-trafficking offence; and using a communication facility to facilitate a drug-trafficking offence.
Yesterday, Markus moved to dismiss the firearm charge, as well as the use of a communication facility to facilitate a drug-trafficking offence. He said no evidence has been presented in furtherance of the charges. The judge is yet to rule on that matter.
Meanwhile, an animated Buju yesterday told the jury he was tricked into going into a warehouse to view cocaine by Johnson and that the informant always found a way to introduce drug trafficking into their conversations. He said the US government has been unfair to him in presenting the case.
"Half of the things that have been said have not been brought to this court and for the jury," Buju said.
And in responding to Preston as to why he did not tell Johnson he was not interested in cocaine discussions, Buju said: "I never told him I was either."
He said: "You want the jury to believe we sat there those umpteen times and all we talked about was drugs."
He added: "I know it is your job. You are trying to let this jury believe I am a monster. I am not going to sit here and play dumb while those things are being shoved down my throat."
He told the court he did speak about drugs and that it was stupid of him. He also said he has never involved himself in any such trafficking or conspiracy for which he has been charged.
"We could talk until the sky falls to our feet, as long as I don't take a step to manifest it, then all that it is is talk," said Buju, adding that his mouth has caused great pain to himself, family, friends and well-wishers.
Earlier in the day, Buju, in answering his attorney, said he would walk away from conversations with Johnson about cocaine, saying to himself the man was an "idiot".
"This guy was being very impressive and I was trying to impress too," Buju said, in explaining why he spoke about cocaine deals with Johnson.
"I feel ashamed of seeing myself and hearing myself," he said in reference to video and audio recordings that captured him tasting and discussing cocaine.
He said had Johnson given him an opportunity to choose whether he wanted to see cocaine at the warehouse on December 8, 2009, he would have decided against it.
"What they did to me was that they took away my chance to determine whether I wanted to be a part of a drug deal. They tricked me," Buju said.
He told Preston in reference to Johnson: "Your friend tried to dose me with alcohol to get me talking crap.
"They did not give me a chance, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, to choose for myself. They chose for me and want me to say I am guilty. I am not doing that!"
The Grammy award-winning artiste also told the court that when the door of the warehouse where he viewed and tasted the cocaine was closed, he feared for his life, as he suddenly realised Johnson was serious about drug deals.
"I saw my family, my children, everything that I have worked hard for in the past 21 years flash before my face. Why would I throw that away for Mr Johnson and his (US) $5,000?" he said.