DEA agent testifies in Buju's favour

TAMPA, Florida — Drug Enforcement Agent Daniel McCeaffrey, today testified that he had no evidence that Reggae singer Buju Banton, was involved in illicit drug dealing. McCeaffrey, who gave evidence on the first day of the trial at the Gibbons US Federal Court in downtown Tampa, said there was no evidence that Buju Banton — whose real name is Mark Myrie — received any money from any drug deal.

He also said even though he was investigating Banton for a year, he could find no evidence that the artiste had collected any money from drug dealing. He made the revelation during cross-examination from Banton's attorney David Markus. Markus, in his opening salvo, told the 14-member panel of jurors that he would prove that Myrie was not a drug trafficker and had never invested in illicit drug dealing. He said that artiste would waive his right not to testify.

"He's got nothing to hide because the truth is on his side in this case," Markus said.

He said his client's big mistake was that he loved to talk. Markus said Myrie met DEA informant Alexander Johnson, a Colombian national, on a flight from Madrid Spain to Florida last year and during conversation Johnson introduced the subject of drug dealing to him. He said Myrie had in fact tasted cocaine but that did not qualify him as a drug dealer. Markus also argued that Myrie did not know about the US$130,000 that his co-defendant James Mack had been held with. The money he said was given to Mack by two men identified as 'Ike' and 'Tike' from Atlanta, Georgia.

The attorney said Mack and Ian Thomas were the ones who were dealing drugs and said his client made a decision not to partake in any deal and went to his Tamarac home in Florida, where he was arrested in December last year. Mack and Thomas have taken plea deals and have agreed to testify against the artiste. All three are charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute five or more kilogrammes of cocaine. The charge carries a sentence of 20 years to life and a fine of up to US$4 million.

Prosecutor Jim Preston argued that he would prove that Myrie is a known drug dealer who invested in multi-million dollar drug enterprises and he was arrested because he was starting a new venture. Forensic chemist Alexandra Gongra also gave evidence that the substance that Thomas and Mack were arrested with was cocaine. Telephone records analyst Donnie Godshoal also gave evidence today.

Dozens of Banton's supporters turned up outside the court to show their solidarity with the four time Grammy nominee.