Rapper T.I. facing federal gun charges in Atlanta, Georgia

Rapper T.I. was arrested this weekend in Atlanta, Georgia on federal firearm charges. He was in Atlanta to collect a handful of awards at the BET Hip-Hop award show. Instead, he spent the weekend at the federal detention center awaiting his initial appearance this afternoon.

This afternoon, Magistrate Judge Alan Baverman informed T.I. about the charges he is facing, and ordered him held in custody pending a detention hearing on Friday. The story was reported in the Atlanta Journal Constitution about an hour ago. The affidavit supporting the criminal complaint can be found online. There is also a good description of the type of machine guns involved.

Many people are asking what will happen next. In federal court, the procedures are fairly straight-forward. At the initial appearance this afternoon, the government filed a motion for detention arguing that T.I. should be held without bond pending trial. That’s not unusual in this district and probably has less to do with T.I.’s celebrity than with his prior felony drug record. I doubt there will be any strong evidence that T.I. is a flight risk, but the government may try to argue that he is a “danger to the community” given his criminal record and the nature of the new charges.

At the detention hearing (scheduled for this Friday) Judge Baverman will decide whether T.I. will be held in custody or released on bond. If he is released, the judge may impose certain conditions like electronic monitoring, curfews and travel restrictions. The judge may also set a high bond considering T.I.’s financial resources. If the judge denies bond, T.I. and his defense lawyers will be able to appeal that ruling to a district court judge.

Regardless of the outcome of the detention hearing, there will also be a preliminary hearing on Friday. Because T.I. was arrested on a criminal complaint he is entitled to a hearing to determine if there was probable cause to arrest him. It is rare for a complaint to be dismissed at such a hearing, but it is legally possible.

The government will then have 30 days to indict the case. If T.I. is indicted, he will be brought back to court for an arraignment. At that time, the case will be assigned to a new judge and motions will be filed. A trial date will be set sometime later, unless there is a plea.

I have defended many people charged with firearm offenses in this district, and we won a machine gun trial last year. Gun cases, however, are difficult to win at the federal level because the government need only prove that the person has a current felony conviction and had “possession” of a firearm that has “affected interstate commerce” at some time.

Fortunately for T.I., he has hired two very experienced and effective federal defense attorneys. And, of course, he’s innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

But no matter what happens on Friday, I am sure T.I.’s weekend in Atlanta was not at all what he had planned.

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