Dueling Claims to Gun Ownership Fail: “Hell, No,” I’m Not Touching That Gun!

Young v. City of Chicago, 2021 WL 403899 (7th Cir. 2021)

Joshua Young, a convicted felon, drove Corey Hughes, another convicted felon, to the barbershop. As they drove, Hughes told Young he had a gun. Young wanted nothing to do with the gun and started to turn around, but Hughes said he was returning the gun to the barbershop. Young then dropped Hughes off at the barbershop, returning hours later to pick him up. Young did not ask Hughes about the gun, though he believed Hughes had left it at the barbershop.

Officers got a tip that Hughes and Young were driving around with a gun in the car. They spotted the car and saw that Hughes was not wearing a seatbelt. The officers pulled the car over, approached with guns drawn and commanded Hughes and Young to “freeze” and “let me see your hands.” Hughes told Young to take the gun. Young shouted at Hughes, “Hell, no.” Hughes wiped the gun and placed it on the car’s center console. Young raised his hands and got out of the car. The officers could see the commotion as they approached.

Young told officers the gun was not his. Hughes told officers he couldn’t be the one carrying the gun because he was wearing sweatpants and walking on crutches. He told officers the gun belonged to a street gang. The officers’ reports listed Hughes as the gun owner.

“That scene provided more than enough information for the officers to believe that Young possessed the gun.”

Young gave a written statement describing the trip to the barbershop and his instructions to Hughes to get rid of the gun. The officers allegedly tore up that statement and had him complete another statement that left out exculpatory details about telling Hughes to get rid of the gun.

An officer filed a report with Young’s statement and a prosecutor charged Young with being an armed habitual criminal. A judge found probable cause to detain him and set a $100,000 bond. Young couldn’t pay the bond and was locked up in pretrial detention for over a year. After his acquittal, Young sued the officers, claiming they held him without probable cause and fabricated evidence against him.

The trial court granted summary judgment on all claims against the officers and the appellate court affirmed. The appellate court opined that “the officers had such probable cause because they found a gun right next to Young in the car he was driving. That scene provided more than enough information for the officers to believe that Young possessed the gun.” The court held that “it does not matter that Young said the gun wasn’t his—protesting innocence is not a get-out-of-pretrial-detention-free card.” And even if the officers fabricated evidence after the arrest, that didn’t change the fact they “had all the probable cause they needed from the arrest scene.” Though there was no finding that the officers fabricated evidence in this case, nothing will land an officer on a Brady list and potentially end a career as quickly as falsifying testimony or concealing or fabricating evidence.

This blog was featured in our Xiphos newsletter, a monthly legal-focused law enforcement newsletter authored by Ken Wallentine. Subscriptions are free for public safety officers, educators and public attorneys.

Ken Wallentine

KEN WALLENTINE is the Chief of the West Jordan (Utah) Police Department and former Chief of Law Enforcement for the Utah Attorney General. He has served over four decades in public safety, is a legal expert and editor of Xiphos, a monthly national criminal procedure newsletter. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the Institute for the Prevention of In-Custody Death and serves as a use of force consultant in state and federal criminal and civil litigation across the nation.

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