Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Buju Banton gun conviction set aside, juror may face contempt charge

TAMPA — A federal judge threw out a 2011 gun conviction Wednesday against reggae star Buju Banton and told the government to bring a criminal contempt charge against a juror who helped send him to prison.

Banton must continue to serve a 10-year sentence for helping set up a deal to buy and sell 11 pounds of cocaine, but, for now, he does not face an additional five years for a participant's carrying of an illegal gun.

For jury foreman Terri Wright, the troubles are just starting. She could face a fine and up to six months in prison if found guilty of contempt.

U.S. District Judge James S. Moody Jr. concluded that Wright did independent research during Banton's February 2011 trial and then discussed her findings with other jurors, behavior that came to light after she gave a newspaper interview in October 2012.

When accused of misconduct, Wright gave the court the incorrect computer hard drive for a forensic examination, Moody decided, after hearing the facts. The judge's finding contradicted Wright's assertion, under oath, that it was the correct hard drive.

But computer forensics expert Larry Daniel testified that the drive came from a desktop computer that sat idle from May 2010 to June 2011, a time frame that included the trial and its aftermath. The expert found no Internet history during that 13-month span, nor any evidence that the hard drive had been altered.

Yet, on various occasions, Wright has admitted to researching Banton and the law.

All that has changed is the timing: In October, she told a South Florida journalist in a recorded interview that she did research during the trial. In December, she told the court that she did her research after the trial.

Chokwe Lumumba, one of Banton's attorneys, pushed her again Wednesday to pin down a time frame. She pushed back, telling him it's been two years and she doesn't recall.

Moody said he was "very troubled" by the matter.

He found cause to believe Wright researched a legal theory called the Pinkerton rule, which was discussed during jury instructions and may have been a topic of confusion among jurors.

Here's how it applied: If Banton was found to be part of the drug conspiracy, the Pinkerton rule allowed jurors to also hold him liable for a gun carried by conspirator James Mack. That's an automatic five-year sentence bump, because it's a separate federal crime to carry a firearm during a drug-trafficking offense.

Moody said it is difficult to explore the impact that Wright's input might have had on deliberations, lacking a hard drive that reflects Internet use.

But because the gun verdict depended on the Pinkerton rule, he set the verdict aside and left it to the government to decide whether to retry Banton on that one remaining count.

It wasn't Moody's first crack at separating Banton from the gun verdict.

The judge dismissed the charge at sentencing, saying Banton could not have known that Mack would carry a gun. But an appeals court reinstated it.

Defense attorney Lumumba said afterward that he appreciated Moody's decision on the gun charge but he didn't think the judge went far enough.

"I thought he should have thrown out the whole case," Lumumba said. "If we can't believe her on the Pinkerton issue, we can't believe her on anything else."

Wright's attorney, Lori Palmieri, declined to comment about the looming contempt charge.

Banton, whose real name is Mark Anthony Myrie, attended the hearing, cigar-thick dreadlocks pulled back into a loose braid. Asked how he is doing, Lumumba said this:

"Creative minds suffer when locked up."

Staff writer Patty Ryan can be reached at pryan@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3382.

Buju Banton gun conviction set aside, juror may face contempt charge 06/26/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 26, 2013 10:39pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Gradebook podcast: On hate speech at UF, and education reform in the Florida Legislature

    Blogs

    National events hit Florida hard this week, as the white nationalist group at the center of violent protests in Virginia worked to cement plans for a rally in Tally. Uni …

  2. Mother of woman killed in Charlottesville say she will not speak to Trump

    Nation

    The mother of the woman who was run down by a car during violent clashes in Charlottesville, Va., said Friday that after seeing President Donald Trump's comments equivocating between white supremacist protesters and those demonstrating against them, she does not wish to speak with him.

    Susan Bro, mother to Heather Heyer, speaks during a memorial for her daughter on Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2017, at the Paramount Theater in Charlottesville, Va.  Heyer was killed Saturday, when a car rammed into a crowd of people protesting a white nationalist rally.  [Andrew Shurtleff | Daily Progress via AP]
  3. Florida's unemployment rate remains the same

    Markets

    After four consecutive months of decline, Florida's unemployment rate is leveling out. The state's unemployment rate was 4.1 percent in July, the same as June according to state figures released Friday.

    Florida's unemployment rate was 4.1 percent in July, unchanged from June, state figures released Friday said. Pictured is a job fair. | [Times file photo]
  4. Tina Fey urges Americans: Stay home from neo-Nazi rallies. Eat a sheet cake instead. (w/ video)

    The Feed

    Tina Fey is fuming about last weekend's violence in Charlottesville, home to her alma mater, the University of Virginia.

    In a surprise appearance on SNL's Weekend Update: Summer Edition Thursday night, Fey urged Americans not to get into screaming matches with neo-Nazis. Instead, she said, "order a cake with the American flag on it ... and just eat it." [Photo from video]
  5. Trump bashing aside, Democrats struggle for united message

    State Roundup

    It should be a golden opportunity for Democrats: The nonstop controversy surrounding President Donald Trump and the failure of Republicans on Capitol Hill to get much done.

    Democratic Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., speaks at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC, on July 26, condemning president Trump's tweets stating that he plans to limit the ability of transgender people to serve in the military. (Alex Edelman/Zuma Press/TNS)