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Reggae Star Held Without Bail On Cocaine Trafficking Charges

Posted on January 08, 2010 3:00 AM EST

Rather than appearing at the Grammy Awards later this month, reggae singer, Buju Banton, will be spending his time in the Tampa federal detention center, at least for the time being. Banton appeared with his Miami criminal lawyer before a federal court magistrate for his arraignment and pre-trial detention hearing.. With the assistance of his defense lawyer, he entered a not guilty plea to the charge of conspiracy to traffic cocaine and cocaine trafficking. Federal prosecutors requested that Banton be held without bail. Banton is facing at least a ten year mandatory prison sentence.

Banton's Miami criminal defense attorney did not oppose the motion for pre-trial detention because his is being by an immigration detainer. Even if Banton was granted a bond by the federal magistrate, the immigration hold would prevent him from leaving federal custody. It has become the custom in Miami and South Florida that individuals arrested who are in the United States on student or work visas will automatically be issued an immigration detainer. Banton must retain an immigration attorney to appear in court and seek a removal of the detainer or in the alternative seek a bond. Once the detainer has been removed, Banton will be free to appear in federal court and seek bail at a bond hearing.

Because Banton has been charged with cocaine trafficking, a Nebbia requirement will also attach to any bond he granted. In Florida state and federal court, all drug trafficking cases that are bond eligible require more than the mere posting of the bond. The defendant must provide documentation proving the cash and collateral put up for the bond did not come from the proceeds of an illegal enterprise such as drug trafficking, mortgage fraud or Medicare fraud. Banton should have no problem meeting the Nebbia requirement if he is granted a bond because he can show federal prosecutors and the judge that money and property put up as collateral on the bond come from his lucrative music business.

Banton's criminal case is set for trial in February, 2010. Whether he remains in custody during the pendency of his case remains to be seen. The indictment alleges that Banton contacted a confidential informant "CI" and set up a cocaine deal involving several kilos of cocaine. The alleged transaction occurred at a warehouse in Sarasota that was equipped with audio and video surveillance. Law enforcement often try to consummate drug deals at warehouses they own and operate to catch the transaction on surveillance cameras. Certainly, a jury would find a video on a cocaine or marijuana deal more convincing than a cop's testimony.

Reggae Singer Banton Held Without Bail on Drug Charges, Tampa Bay Online, January 7, 2010.
Categories: Bond Hearings