Judge Throws Out Reggae Great Buju Banton's Gun Conviction, Finds Juror in Contempt
Today in Tampa, federal Judge James Moody made a dramatic decision in the ongoing legal drama of Buju Banton. The bench tossed a gun conviction that the federal government stuck on the reggae superstar, mainly thanks to New Times having reported on the highly illegal extracurricular activities of one of the case's original jurors.
Moody ruled that former juror Terri Wright had lied to the court about whether she researched the Banton case while serving on the panel. Wright first admitted stepping outside the bounds to former New Times staffer Chris Sweeney.
She later tried to backpedal from the statements, but Moody ruled Wednesday that she lied when later trying to cover her ass. Along with tossing out the conviction, Moody instructed the government to bring contempt of court charges against Wright.
"This shows how important good reporting is," David Oscar Markus, an attorney who previously represented Banton, told New Times. "The judge credited Chris' reporting in making his decision. He reported accurately what she said, and it really was the turning point for Buju on the gun charge."
Sweeney's own testimony at a hearing in December helped settle the matter. The former-New Times writer played for the judge a recording of his conversation with Wright in which she talked openly about doing research during the trial.
The prosecution could press the gun charge issue. "They can decide to retry him," Markus says. But "I strongly doubt that they will do that."