Drew Findling, Atlanta Georgia. Photo by John Disney/Daily Report. (John Disney/Daily Report)
When the Georgia Court of Appeals rejected Waka Flocka Flame’s attempt to have his gun charges dismissed last April, it looked like the rapper and “Love & Hip Hop” reality television star didn’t have a chance in front of a jury.
“No one thought he did,” said his lawyer, Drew Findling of the Findling Law Firm in Buckhead.
So how, then, did a Clayton County State Court jury Thursday find Flame—whose legal name is Juaquin Malphurs—not guilty on all charges related to his 2014 venture into Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport with a gun in his bag?
The secret is in the jury charge. Findling said the case was won on Judge Tammi Hayward’s instructions regarding the law. He called it the “misapprehension of fact” rule.
To explain, he turned to his co-counsel, Marissa Goldberg, an associate at his firm. “She did a prolonged jury charge conference and she is masterful on the subject,” he said.
“If someone is mistaken as to a fact—and if that fact were true—then the action would not be a crime,” Goldberg said.
In this case, Malphurs said he believed he had picked up his own bag when he rushed out to the airport instead of a matching one belonging to his wife, which had her gun in the bottom. Though he tried to explain that to agents at the Transportation Safety Administration checkpoint, they had him arrested and taken to jail. The defense alleged that officers spent no more than five or 10 minutes looking into Malphurs’ contention that he didn’t know the gun was there. But the law on which the judge charged the jury—at Goldberg’s request—shifts the burden onto the state to prove intent, Findling said.
“We were not going to concede one iota of guilt,” Findling said. “He’s actually innocent.”
After a four-day trial, the jury took 30 minutes to agree.
Solicitor General Tasha Mosley, whose office prosecuted the case, said by email, “Airport security is paramount. This office will zealously prosecute cases as it relates to airport safety.”