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Thursday, March 4, 2010

Buju Banton's attorney seeks details on informant in drug case

Published: March 4, 2010

TAMPA - The informant who helped federal agents build a drug case against Jamaican reggae singer Buju Banton has been paid $3.3 million for helping law enforcement in numerous cases over several years, lawyers said in court this morning.
An attorney for Banton, whose real name is Mark Anthony Myrie, said he plans to argue that the singer was entrapped by the informant, who pestered him for months to join him in a cocaine deal.
Myrie is being held without bail on charges of conspiring to distribute cocaine and aiding and abetting his co-defendants in possessing a firearm during the course of cocaine distribution.
The Drug Enforcement Administration has said in court filings that Myrie contacted a confidential informant about a possible cocaine purchase. The next day, Myrie and other men met with the informant at Sarasota's La Tropicana de Havana restaurant, where the DEA and local police had set up video and audio surveillance.
Defense attorney David Oscar Markus told U.S. Magistrata Thomas Wilson this morning that prosecutors have not provided enough information about the informant for him to be prepared to cross-examine him at Myrie's trial, scheduled for April 19.
Markus outlined information that the government has given him about the informant:
• The informant's name, which Markus did not disclose in court.
• He was paid more than $35,000 for his cooperation in the case against Myrie and is also paid on a contingency basis, receiving a portion of the money the judge orders the defendant to forfeit.
• He was convicted in South Florida in 1993 of distributing cocaine in a case that brought a minimum mandatory prison sentence of 10 years.
• He transported large amounts of cocaine and marijuana between 1984 and 1993.
• He is a legal, permanent resident of the United States from Colombia and was granted that immigration status after law enforcement requested it.
• When he testified in one case, a judge questioned his credibility.
• He is involved in a tax dispute with the IRS.
• He has worked with the prosecutor in Myrie's case for more than 10 years.
But Marcus said he needs more details, such as details about the tax case, information on other cases the informant has worked and specifics on the informant's criminal history.
Marcus also asked for a list of the amounts of money the informant was paid in each case. Marcus said he thinks the amount has escalated over the years.
Assistant U.S. Attorney James Preston said he has complied with court requirements and turned over all information that might help the defense. Providing details on every case the informant has worked could put the informant in danger, Preston said.
Although Wilson said Marcus wasn't necessarily entitled to more information, the judge ordered the prosecution to give the defense any communications by law enforcement or prosecutors asking for beneficial treatment in the informant's tax case and immigration file. Wilson also ordered the prosecutor to give the defense a list of cases in which the informant has testified for the prosecution.



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