When Grammy-nominateed reggae artist Buju Banton goes to trial in less than two weeks, he will face three charges more than he did during his first trial. United States District Judge James Moody Jr has dismissed a motion filed by lawyers representing Buju, whose real name is Mark Myrie, seeking to throw out a superseding indictment filed by prosecutors. When the trial begins on February 14, Buju will now have an even bigger task at hand than he did the first time around.
Efforts to contact Buju’s lawyer, David Markus, were unsuccessful yesterday, but legal officials in the US agreed that while Buju could still beat the charges, he now has a more difficult mountain to climb.
When he was first arrested in December 2009, Buju was charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine, and aiding and abetting his two co-defendants in knowingly and intentionally possessing a firearm during the course of a drug offence.
The jury was unable to agree ona verdict and the case ended in a mistrial.
Last November, US prosecutors obtained a superseding indictment against Buju which added two additional counts and modified the gun charge.
Lawyers representing Buju rushed to court seeking a dismissal of the superseding indictment, alleging vindictiveness on the part of the prosecutors because of the mistrial and the defence’s attempts to get the charges dismissed.
“The court should presume that the new charges and modification were added by the government in retaliation for (the defendant) exercising his constitutional rights,” Buju’s lawyers argued.
But the prosecutors hit back: “As long as the prosecutor has probable cause to believe the accused has committed a crime, the courts have no authority to interfere with a prosecutor’s decision to prosecute.”
In his ruling, Moody sided with the prosecution.
“The court concludes that, even assuming, for the purpose of argument, that (the) defendant made a threshold showing that his exercise of pretrial rights was followed by charges of increased severity, (the) defendant is not entitled to a presumption of prosecutorial vindictiveness.”
Moody added: “The United States’ initial indictment did not foreclose it from bringing further charges against the defendant.”
In the meantime, there was some good news for Buju on Monday as a judge upheld his request to have the two men initially charged with him appear in court to give evidence during his retrial.
Buju had asked the court that Ian Thomas and James Mack, his two co-accused, be taken from the jail where they are being held and made available to give testimony.
Thomas and Mack have already pleaded guilty to the charges and are awaiting sentencing. They did not testify during the original trial.
Source: Jamaica Gleaner