Kentrell Gaulden

Kentrell Gaulden

Local chart-topping rapper NBA YoungBoy — a convicted felon facing federal gun charges in Baton Rouge and Los Angeles —  has cleared the last hurdle to starting house arrest in Utah.

After Assistant U.S. Attorney Will Morris told U.S. Magistrate Judge Richard Bourgeois Jr. that the government would not seek to detain the rap artist, whose real name is Kentrell Gaulden, on the Baton Rouge charge, the court then set several conditions for his release and ordered him to appear in Los Angeles for his arraignment whenever that date is set.

Two of Gaulden's lawyers, James Manasseh and Andre Belanger, said outside the courtroom Tuesday that the rapper should be released within 24 hours from the St. Martin Parish Correctional Center where he has been held, and then head straight to his Utah home to begin his house arrest. They said the California arraignment should take place in November.

Despite his legal troubles, Gaulden saw his latest album land at No. 1 on the Billboard charts earlier this month when it was streamed about 186 million times and sold about 10,000 copies. 

NBA in NBA YoungBoy stands for Never Broke Again.

Gaulden's latest criminal case dates back to September 2020, when he and 15 others were arrested on various gun and drug possession charges during a video shoot at a vacant lot in Baton Rouge.

As a result of that arrest, a federal grand jury in Baton Rouge indicted him in March on charges that he possessed a firearm as a felon and that he possessed a firearm not registered to him in a federal database.

Gaulden, 21, is classified as a felon because he pleaded guilty in 2017 to aggravated assault with a firearm in connection with a non-fatal drive-by shooting on Kentucky Street in Baton Rouge. The November 2016 shooting occurred two days after Gaulden turned 17.

Twelve days after his March 12 indictment, agents arrested Gaulden in Los Angeles on a federal firearm warrant out of Baton Rouge and returned him here. 

Bourgeois said in court on Tuesday that a .45-caliber pistol and 12 rounds of ammo were allegedly found in Gaulden's possession when he was stopped in Los Angeles.

A federal grand jury there indicted Gaulden in August, and he was arrested in Baton Rouge on an arrest warrant issued by that grand jury. That is why Gaulden appeared before Bourgeois in Baton Rouge on the California charge.

On Friday, Chief U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick, of Baton Rouge, changed her mind and agreed to release Gaulden on bond pending his trial in Baton Rouge and put him under 24-hour house arrest in Utah.

The judge had ruled April 1 that Gaulden should remain jailed until a trial on those charges, saying he was "inclined toward reckless, illegal, dangerous behavior" and adding that there was no combination of bond conditions that would ensure the community's safety.

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Dick reversed course last week after Gaulden's attorneys urged the judge to reconsider her previous order, arguing that he would not pose a danger to himself or others if granted bond under certain strict conditions, such as house arrest.

The lawyers laid out an elaborate plan that included building a recording studio at the 21-year-old's Utah home and hiring a security firm staffed by former soldiers to patrol the grounds.

Dick did not require the security firm proposal but did impose a curfew on visitors to Gaulden's Utah home, saying no more than three visitors can be at the residence at any one time. Any visitors must be pre-approved by Dick, and there can be no visitors between 9 p.m. and 7 a.m.

She also said Gaulden must post a $1.5 million property bond or put $500,000 cash into a trust account of his attorneys before he can be released to home confinement.

His lawyers said Tuesday that the cash bond requirement has been satisfied. Once Gaulden posts a $1.5 million property bond, the $500,000 will be returned to him.

Bourgeois said Gaulden will be subject to electronic location monitoring and must restrict his travel to the Baton Rouge area and parts of Utah and California. He must refrain from breaking any laws, not possess a firearm and not use any narcotics not prescribed by a doctor, the magistrate judge said.

If the rapper violates any conditions of his release, Bourgeois warned, the government would likely and swiftly move for his detention.

"I don't want to see you back here," he told Gaulden.

Morris, a Baton Rouge federal prosecutor, told Bourgeois on Tuesday that it is still the government's position that no condition of release or combination of conditions can ensure the community's safety when it comes to Gaulden, but in light of Dick's ruling the government would not recommend his detention.

Gaulden recently bought a home in northern Utah to be near the family of a childhood tutor who took him under her wing, according to court testimony last week.

Prosecutors argued then that it was unlikely any of the bond conditions pitched by the defense would make a difference, given Gaulden's pattern of behavior. They noted that, even in the St. Martin Parish jail, which has extensive security, Gaulden had been involved in a fight.

Gaulden also was arrested in 2018 on a domestic violence charge. He eventually pleaded guilty to misdemeanor battery.

On Mother’s Day 2019, gunmen opened fire on the rapper and his entourage outside the Trump International Hotel in Miami; his girlfriend was wounded. Members of his crew, who were legally armed, returned fire, fatally striking a bystander. Miami-Dade police ruled Gaulden’s associates acted in self-defense.


Email Joe Gyan Jr. at jgyan@theadvocate.com.