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Controversial reggae star Buju Banton held at Pinellas jail

Controversial reggae star Buju Banton is being held in the Pinellas County jail to face federal drug charges.

Born Mark Myrie, the Jamaican native was transported from Miami Tuesday afternoon by U.S. marshals.

Banton, 36, is accused of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine, according to a criminal complaint filed with the U.S. District Court.

Authorities say the charges stem from a drug deal in early December that involved Banton and two of his associates buying cocaine from undercover federal drug enforcement agents in Sarasota. Conversations regarding the drugs and actual transactions were caught on audio and video tape, according to the complaint.

Banton will be arraigned in federal court in Tampa on Thursday, said his defense attorney, David Markus. He said the reggae star will plead not guilty.

Banton's performed in Tampa was in October, when the Cuban Club's scheduling of the reggae artist drew protests by local gay activists. The group denounced Banton because of his song Boom Bye Bye, which they say incites violence against gays. Banton, who recorded the song when he was 15 years old, was banned from performing it at the club.

The Pinellas County jail has a contract with the U.S. Marshals Service to house federal prisoners awaiting trial, said Pinellas County sheriff's Sgt. Tom Nestor.

Banton's latest album, Rasta Got Soul, is nominated for a Grammy this year.

Controversial reggae star Buju Banton held at Pinellas jail 01/06/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, January 6, 2010 1:48pm]
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