YoungBoy Never Broke Again, one of the most popular and prolific rap artists on the planet, scored another pre-trial victory in his Louisiana gun case Friday when a federal judge ruled that a cache of personal videos seized at the time of his arrest nearly two years ago will remain off limits to prosecutors due to an improper search warrant.
Federal prosecutors had filed a motion asking U.S. District Court Chief Judge Shelly Dick to “reconsider” and reverse her Feb. 24 decision suppressing the video. They argued some of the disputed footage should be shown to jurors at YoungBoy’s upcoming trial, set to begin July 11, “to avoid a miscarriage of justice.” Judge Dick shut them down in her three-page ruling obtained by Rolling Stone.
“The government fails to explain how a miscarriage of justice will occur if the court does not grant its motion. Rather, the government simply offers two additional arguments in support of its original opposition. But the time to raise those arguments has passed,” Judge Dick wrote.
The judge said federal prosecutors had ample opportunity to raise their new arguments before she issued her decision, including during a three-day evidentiary hearing back in October. Now serving pre-trial house arrest after his release from jail in October, Gaulden has pleaded not guilty to charges he was a felon in possession of unregistered guns.
In court briefs tied to the October hearing, prosecutors focused their efforts on defending the legitimacy of the search warrant that purportedly turned up video on an SD memory card showing YoungBoy in possession of one or more firearms shortly before he was arrested near his grandfather’s Baton Rouge home on Sept. 28, 2020.
After the judge’s Feb. 24 decision, prosecutors shifted strategy and claimed for the first time that the rapper, whose legal name is Kentrell Gaulden, actually lacked sufficient standing to even challenge the admissibility of the videos in the first place. They claimed Gaulden had no Fourth Amendment property interest in the videos because they were commissioned by a limited liability company named Big38Enterprise. They also argued he had no Fourth Amendment privacy interest because the videos they intended to offer at trial depicted “conduct he knowingly exposed to the public on the streets of Baton Rouge.”
“The compelling evidence of Gaulden’s brazen criminal activity should not be excluded from trial because Gaulden’s personal rights were not violated by the searches and seizures at issue. It was Gaulden’s burden to prove standing, and he did not do so. The video evidence should therefore be admitted at trial,” the prosecutors wrote in their March motion.
Gaulden’s lawyers responded in an April filing that Big38Enterprise is not only Gaulden’s personal LLC, but he’s the only person authorized to transfer money on its behalf — and they said it doesn’t matter what was on the SD card.
“That the illegally searched card turns out to contain video, some of which the government claims shows criminal activity (though the criminality of that activity is precisely what is in dispute), cannot retroactively justify a grievously illegal and unconstitutional search. If it could, we would no longer have a Fourth Amendment,” Gaulden’s defense lawyers wrote.
“The court addressed standing at length in its prior ruling, and the government fails to show that the court committed a manifest error of law or fact,” Judge Dick wrote in her Friday ruling.
In her underlying decision issued four months ago, Judge Dick said the warrant used to seize the video “was invalid on its face” because the Baton Rouge Police officer who wrote it included “misleading information” — namely a statement claiming that a “reliable witness” had informed police that a group of people were brandishing firearms and filming a rap video outside Gaulden’s grandfather’s home on Sept. 28, 2020.
In reality, the allegation about the “rap video” was relayed to a senior officer on Sept. 27, 2020, by a so-called “reliable source,” while the allegation about people brandishing firearms came from an anonymous 911 call a day later, the judge said.
“The whole truth would have included that the tip about the rap video came in on September 27th — not September 28th — which would have negated probable cause to search the SD cards and camera for evidence of who possessed firearms or narcotics on September 28th,” Judge Dick wrote in her decision.
Gaulden, 22, has released more than two dozen mixtapes, studio albums and EP’s since 2015. His 2019 mixtape AI YoungBoy2 and his 2021 studio album Sincerely, Kentrell both debuted at number one on the US Billboard chart. His 2018 hit single Valuable Pain was certified triple-platinum last month.