Incarcerated reggae star Buju Banton has switched attorneys and hired Chokwe Lumumba to continue his fight against federal drug and gun charges.
A Tampa jury found Buju guilty last year of two drug-related charges and a gun charge. The trial judge, however, tossed the gun charge and sentenced the musician to 10 years in prison.
David Oscar Markus, the Miami attorney who represented Buju through two weeklong trials and a complex yet unsuccessful appeals process
, confirms with New Times
that he's moving on from the case.
"I will always consider Buju my friend and my brother and I think of him every day," Markus wrote in an email. "It pains me that he is in prison. I truly hope that he gets some relief."
Buju's new attorney, Lumumba, is currently waiting on the official paperwork to go through but expects to delve into the case and meet with Buju at a Miami federal penitentiary in the coming weeks.
"We intend to move as fast as we can," Lumumba says. "In terms of how fast the court will move, it's hard to say."
Markus, Buju's first attorney, focused much of his effort on tearing down the credibility of the government's only witness, Alex Johnson, a felon with financial incentives to get Buju arrested. Markus also argued that Buju was entrapped and that the case was plagued by prosecutorial vindictiveness.
Lumumba is sure to bring a different dynamic to the courtroom. A civil rights activist and community organizer for four decades, Lumumba is based in Mississippi. He's also on the City Council of Jackson, Mississippi.
In the past, Lumumba has worked on cases involving Tupac Shakur, Black Panther Assata Shakur (a step-aunt to Tupac), and Lance Parker, a black man accused of assaulting a white truck driver during the 1992 Rodney King riots in L.A.
A resentencing in Buju's case is slated for October 30. The judge will have to decide whether to add an additional five years to Buju's already decadelong sentence after an Atlanta appeal's court said there was enough evidence for the gun count.
Judge Moody, the trial judge, originally tossed the gun charge but reinstated after the appeal's court said the government's argument that guns and drugs go together was enough for the conviction.
Lumumba may file a motion to seek a resentencing on all charges, not just the gun charge.