Lyrics cannot be used as evidence in NBA YoungBoy trial; defense points to lack of fingerprints on gun
LOS ANGELES (WVUE) - The first of two felony gun possession trials for Baton Rouge chart-topping rapper YoungBoy Never Broke Again, real name Kentrell Gaulden, began Tuesday (July 12) in a Los Angeles federal courtroom.
Before jury selection and opening statements, U.S. District Court Judge R. Gary Klausner ruled to exclude the use of YougBoy’s lyrics as evidence, which prosecutors hoped would convince jurors that the rapper knew of and knowingly possessed a .45 caliber pistol that was found at the time of his “blindsided” arrest.
When Gaulden, a convicted felon, was pulled over and subsequently arrested in Los Angeles after a brief foot chase on March 22, 2021, agents found an FN FNX-45 pistol underneath the passenger seat of his Maybach. Gaulden’s defense claims he was not the only person using or being transported in the high-end vehicle and the gun was hidden under the seat by someone else.
Prosecutors sought to use lyrics from three of YoungBoy’s songs, specifically, the lyrics “FN, Glock, MAC-10s” from the track Gunsmoke, which was released a year prior to his arrest, to prove the artist’s “familiarity and knowledge of FN, the high-end manufacturer of the gun found in (his) car that he denies knowingly possessing.”
Judge Klausner ruled in Gaulden’s favor after his defense team argued that the lyrics were irrelevant.
“These lyrics are highly prejudicial as they discuss hardcore rap which has been empirically established to be more negatively received than other genres of music. It would be one thing if the music described this arrest,” Gaulden’s legal team led by lawyers James P. Manasseh and André Bélanger wrote.
“Even if Mr. Gaulden is familiar with various models of guns and sings about them, it does not mean that he knew this particular gun was secreted on the passenger floor of the Maybach when police attempted to pull his car over to arrest him,” the defense argued.
During testimony, a federal agent said the firearm was found after at least two other agents searched the vehicle prior to him, according to independent lawyer Moe Gangat, who is not tied to the case. The defense argued that if the gun was not discovered until a third search, the gun could not have been in plain sight and YoungBoy did not know the gun was in the vehicle.
Gaulden’s defense team also highlighted several other items in the vehicle which did not belong to their client, including a hotel key card, parking receipt, restaurant receipts, and an airplane ticket receipt with the name Deondre Smart on it.
“In the indictment, they use the word ‘knowingly.’ Knowingly means he has to be aware, and it is their burden to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he was aware that that particular gun was in that particular car at that particular time. Not any gun, but that particular gun, that he knew it was in the car,” Manasseh said in his opening statement Tuesday, according to Rolling Stone reporter Nancy Dillon.
YoungBoy called the first day of trial a success.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Amanda Elbogen urged jurors to ignore Gaulden’s status as one of the most popular rappers in the world and evaluate the case based on the evidence.
“He makes a lot of very popular music, but that doesn’t make him above the law,” she said. She told the jurors they would see an image showing Gaulden holding “what looks to be the exact same gun” on an earlier date in Baton Rouge.
Gaulden’s defense team pointed to a lack of fingerprint evidence on the gun to indicate that the rapper ever handled the pistol.
“In fact, what [prosecutors are] going to show is that there are five different DNA profiles on that gun. So many, that they can’t really identify and say whose might have been on it,” Manasseh continued.
On Wednesday, an expert FBI Forensic Examiner testified that she found “no suitable latents,” or fingerprints, on the FNX-45.
Gaulden has pleaded not guilty in both the California and Louisiana cases, which accuse him of being a felon in possession of a firearm. He has been serving house arrest in Utah, under the surveillance of a security firm staffed by military veterans.
Ahead of his trial in Louisiana, a federal judge ruled that a cache of personal videos seized at the time of his arrest while making a music video nearly two years ago will remain off limits due to an improper search warrant.
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