February 22, 2011 / 11:55 PM / 8 years ago

Reggae star Buju Banton convicted in drug case

Grammy award winner Buju Banton (L) of Jamaica makes a statement to reporters with attorney David Markus outside the federal courthouse in Tampa, Florida, February 14, 2011. REUTERS/Steve Nesius

TAMPA, Florida (Reuters) - Jamaican reggae star and Grammy winner Buju Banton was found guilty on federal drug charges on Tuesday and could face 15 years to life in prison.

A 12-member jury in Tampa found Banton, 37, guilty of conspiring with two other men to possess 11 pounds (5 kg) or more of cocaine in Sarasota, Florida, in December 2009. The verdict came after a four-day trial.

Banton, whose real name is Mark Myrie, won a Grammy for the best reggae album of 2010 for “Before the Dawn” on February 13. He was unable to attend the ceremony in Los Angeles because he was preparing for the start of his trial the next day in Tampa.

Banton testified at the trial that he was entrapped by federal informant Alexander Johnson and never wanted to buy drugs. Banton said he met Johnson on a transatlantic flight and talked about drugs to impress him because he thought Johnson had connections in the music industry.

Jurors were shown a video of Banton tasting cocaine in a Sarasota warehouse two days before his two associates were arrested trying to buy the drugs from an undercover officer. Banton was arrested at his home in Miami.

About 20 supporters of Banton prayed for his acquittal in the hallway of the U.S. District Courthouse while the jury deliberated.

This was Banton’s second trial on the drug charges. The first trial ended last year when the jury could not agree on a verdict.

A sentencing date has not been scheduled.

Editing by Jane Sutton

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