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Buju Banton

Buju Banton

By Dan Sallivan—
TAMPA — Four years after she helped convict reggae star Buju Banton on gun and drug charges, a former juror was found guilty Tuesday of contempt for researching the case outside of court.

Former juror foreman Terri Wright’s punishment: more research.

U.S. District Judge James S. Moody Jr. also sentenced her to five months of probation and 40 hours of community service. But the most creative punishment was the judge ordering her to research and write a report about the cost of Banton’s high-profile, six-day trial.

Wright, 47, showed no reaction as the judge found her guilty after a two-hour bench trial.

The judge’s decision came after attorneys spent the morning arguing about her activities during and after Banton’s trial.


They took testimony from Chris Sweeney, a former reporter with Miami New Times, who wrote a story in 2012 that suggested Wright might have disobeyed a judge’s order not to research the case.

In February 2011, Banton was convicted of setting up a deal to buy and distribute 11 pounds of cocaine. He was later sentenced to 10 years in federal prison. In October 2012, Sweeney said he spoke with Wright and several other jurors about their experiences serving on the jury.

When he spoke with Wright, he was surprised at how well she knew the case’s legal intricacies.

“She mentioned how much she knew about the Pinkerton rule,” Sweeney said. “I was very surprised that she was so knowledgeable.”


The Pinkerton rule is an obscure legal doctrine that came up during the trial. It would automatically add five years to Banton’s sentence, holding him responsible for a gun used by a conspirator in the drug case.

When Sweeney inquired further, Wright talked about getting in her car after court, writing notes about the trial, then returning home and doing research online.

Sweeney recorded his conversation with Wright. A portion of it was played in court.

“I would get in the car and write things down,” she said. “I would go home and do the research.”

He published a story on Oct. 12, 2012, suggesting that Wright might have violated the judge’s orders. She sent him a text message, saying he misunderstood that her research was done after the trial was over. She said she felt betrayed.

Sweeney said he listened to his recorded interview with Wright several times afterward and concluded he had not misunderstood her.

“My quotes were 100 percent accurate,” he said.

Banton continues to serve his 10-year sentence, but, for now, he does not face those five additional years for his associate’s illegal gun. In 2013, Moody threw out Banton’s gun conviction and told the government to bring a contempt charge against Wright.

After she was accused, Wright turned over a computer hard drive for examination. A computer forensics expert told the court that the drive came from a desktop computer that sat idle from May 2010 to June 2011, a time frame that included the trial and its aftermath.

The expert found no Internet history during that 13-month span, or any evidence that the hard drive had been altered.


Prosecutors questioned whether the hard drive was even the one Wright actually used.

Wright’s defense attorney argued that there was no direct proof that she was actually researching the case outside of court. The judge granted the defense’s request that Wright’s sentence be set aside pending an appeal.

Amid the pending criminal case against her, Wright apparently did not shy away from further calls to perform her civic duty.

Last year, she served on a jury in an auto-negligence lawsuit in state court.

In that case, as in the Banton case, she was selected to be the foreman.


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