TAMPA, Florida (AP) — A Florida judge this week declared a mistrial for Jamaican reggae star Buju Banton, who was accused of conspiring to buy cocaine from an undercover police officer last year.
U.S. District Judge James Moody made the decision after the 12-person jury sent him a second note saying they couldn’t reach a verdict.
In an earlier note, jurors said they were having trouble reaching an agreement shortly after returning from a weekend recess. Moody then sent them back to keep trying. Deliberations had begun Thursday after a four-day trial. The jurors declined to tell reporters about their deliberations.
Banton’s attorney has asked Moody to release Banton on bond. He has been held without bond since his Dec. 10 arrest. The attorneys and Moody discussed scheduling a new trial in December.
Banton, a four-time Grammy nominee, had been charged with conspiracy to possess and distribute cocaine and aiding two others in possessing a firearm during the course of cocaine distribution. He faced up to life in prison.
Banton’s attorney, David Markus, had argued that the singer was entrapped by a U.S. government informant. “We were hoping to get a good verdict today. That said, 12 jurors did not believe Buju did it,” said Banton’s attorney, David Markus. “The government tried to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt, and they did not do it.”
Before being led away in leg shackles, Banton reached out his arms to about two dozen family, friends and fans seated in the federal courtroom in Tampa. “Thank you all. Love you, too,” he said.
Banton’s new album, Before the Dawn, was released Tuesday. The album’s 10 songs, including one titled “Innocent,” were recorded in Kingston, Jamaica, last year before Banton’s arrest. “It speaks volumes about what’s going on now in Buju’s life,” said his manager, Tracii McGregor. “Buju has said his body is locked away, but Buju is with us, he lives through his music.”