Judge Says NBA Youngboy Lyrics Can’t Be Used as Evidence as L.A. Gun Possession Trial Begins
During opening statements on Tuesday (July 12), the prosecution and defense offered dueling accounts of the rapper's March 2021 arrest in Los Angeles.
Youngboy Never Broke Again (a.k.a. NBA Youngboy) scored a major victory on the opening day of his Los Angeles trial for firearms possession on Tuesday (July 12), with the judge ruling to exclude the use of the rapper’s lyrics as evidence, defense attorneys confirmed to Billboard.
The decision by U.S. District Judge R. Gary Klausner means prosecutors won’t be able to use lyrics from three Youngboy songs — “Lonely Child,” “Life Support” and “Gunsmoke” — to help convict the rapper (born Kentrell Gaulden), who’s charged with possession of a firearm after he was discovered with a loaded FNX-45 gun after police pulled him over in Tarzana, California on March 22, 2021.
Among other lines, prosecutors had argued that the lyric “FN, Glock, MAC-10s” from “Gunsmoke” demonstrates the rapper’s “familiarity and knowledge of FN, the high-end manufacturer of the gun found in defendant’s car that he denies knowingly possessing,” according to a court filing on Monday (July 11).
In their own filing rebutting the prosecution’s request, defense lawyers had said that allowing the lyrics as evidence would be “highly prejudicial as they discuss hardcore rap which has been empirically established to be more negatively received than other genres of music” and that the lyrics “offer very minimal probative value and are substantially outweighed by the prejudice contained within the words of the songs.” Their argument echoes the growing controversy around rap lyrics being cited in criminal cases against such hip-hop artists as Young Thug, Gunna, Drakeo the Ruler and Bobby Shmurda in recent years.
The judge’s ruling marked a highlight of the first day of Youngboy’s L.A. trial, which took place at Roybal Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse in Downtown Los Angeles and included jury selection and opening arguments by the prosecution and defense lawyers.
The possession charge at issue in the case stems from Youngboy’s previous felony conviction for aggravated assault with a firearm, which prevents him from possessing firearms and ammunition. The U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana had charged Youngboy with this violation and issued a warrant for his arrest; soon after, law enforcement got a search warrant for Youngboy’s cell phone and tracked him to Tarzana.
According to the indictment, LAPD officers surveilled Youngboy as he got into his new Mercedes GLS 200 Maybach, which had been purchased just over a week before, and then tried to pull him over, using marked police cars with sirens and lights.
But in their opening statement, the defense argued that a policeman’s body camera will show that, after complying with officers, pulling over for them and showing his hands, the cops took “defensive positions behind the doors of both cars.”
“This is what Mr. Gaulden is looking at. He sees… this isn’t a traffic stop. This isn’t where they go up and ask for his license, his registration… they’re talking to him on a megaphone,” said the defense. They went on to state that the indictment doesn’t mention that it was “4, 5, 6, 7 police cars marked and unmarked all pulled up behind him,” which they say can also be seen in the body cam footage.
“Police officers are moving towards the front with hands on their weapons,” the defense continued, adding that it was at this moment that Youngboy fled in his car, not understanding why he’d been pulled over or that there was a warrant out for his arrest.
In their dueling opening statements, the prosecution and the defense both noted the speed of the Maybach as it raced down the street — and that the car caught air after hitting a speed bump. To indicate the danger this posed to the public, the prosecution noted the bump was positioned as Youngboy “approached an elementary school and passed a middle school.”
Soon after, Youngboy abandoned his car and began to run away on foot. He was ultimately discovered hours later near the backyard of a stranger’s home in Tarzana and his car was searched by law enforcement.
In its opening statement, the prosecution explained that during a search of the full car, the loaded gun was discovered along with Youngboy’s ID, credit cards and “half a million dollars worth of expensive watches, jewelry, much of which was custom made for the defendant with his rap logo.”
But the defense noted that despite the indictment stating that the tan-colored gun was discovered on the floor behind the front passenger’s seat of the car, multiple people searched the Maybach before the gun was found — something they described as unlikely given how prominent the firearm would have been against the car’s black carpet. Describing the body cam footage, the defense further attempted to poke holes in the prosecution’s assertion about the position of the gun by noting that it appeared an officer in question was “rummaging through something” during a search of the backseat of the vehicle on the driver’s side, but that “never once at that point does [the officer] notify anyone that he sees a gun.”
The defense further alleged that law enforcement didn’t properly document where the items were discovered inside the car, stating, “They didn’t take photographs to show exactly where [the] items were all found. What they’re doing is moving things around and taking photographs.”
Elsewhere in the prosecutors’ opening statement, which was far briefer than that of Youngboy’s legal team, they argued that Youngboy was captured on video in Baton Rouge, Lousiana with the “same exact type of gun” discovered in Tarzana, as well as in a photo in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania a few months ahead of his arrest.
But the defense argued this evidence doesn’t prove the charge at hand.
“[This case is] about this gun, at this place, at this time… The government is going to spend half of their case talking about stuff that happens in cities far away at times far in the past,” the defense argued.
The Los Angeles trial is scheduled to continue over the coming weeks. Youngboy is also facing trial in a separate case in Louisiana, where he is charged with illegally possessing drugs and firearms that were discovered during an arrest in Baton Rouge in September 2020.