Urbana man acquitted of illegal gun possession

Chicago
By Chicago 5 Min Read

URBANA — A Champaign County jury Wednesday acquitted an Urbana man of having been in unlawful possession of a firearm as a felon.

It took the jury approximately two hours before they delivered the verdict in the case of Veaon Hunt, 21, who listed an address in the 100 block of North Webber Street.

Hunt was arrested June 15, 2022, after police found three loaded guns in a car that had been stopped for expired license plates. Two other men in the car, including a minor, were also arrested.

Assistant State’s Attorney Brooke Hinman argued over the course of the two-day trial that one of the guns belonged to Hunt. Hunt’s attorney, Assistant Public Defender Lindsey Lepp, argued that the state had failed to prove Hunt knowingly possessed the gun nearest to him in the backseat of the car, which lacked his fingerprints or any human DNA.

“I am very happy that he will be released and be able to get on with his life,” Lepp said after the acquittal.

Hunt faced three to 14 years in prison. He will continue to be held in custody until his parole violations are resolved. 

State called four witnesses

Hinman called Illinois State Trooper James Hobson, Champaign police Sgt. Jonathan Kristensen, Champaign patrol officer Tyler Darling and Champaign detective Lance Carpenter.

Together, their testimony recounted that police witnessed Hunt and two others enter a white Chevrolet Cruze with expired plates outside the Oakwood Trace Apartments in Champaign. The Chevy was followed by a marked police car, made three left turns and returned to a parking lot in the 200 block of Burr Oak Court.

Police initiated a traffic stop and arrested the driver, while a minor in the front passenger seat and Hunt, who was in the back passenger seat, ran. The two were arrested after a brief foot chase, and Hunt was found with cannabis.

One gun was found on the floor underneath the steering wheel, another in the glove box and the third on the floor underneath the driver’s seat.

Hinman and Lepp agreed on three stipulations that presiding Judge Anna Benjamin read to the jury — that Hunt was a convicted felon, that none of the guns found in the car had human DNA on them, and that one of the guns had a fingerprint on it that belonged to the minor.

Hobson testified that it’s rare for police to recover no human DNA from a gun.

Closing argumentsHinman argued that the gun found beneath the driver’s seat was Hunt’s because he was sitting in the backseat, so he was in the best position to stow it there, and it made sense that each of the three in the car had his own gun.

Hinman also argued that Hunt ran because he knew the gun was in the car and didn’t want to be caught with it and that there was no DNA on the guns because they were likely wiped clean while the Chevy was turning back to the parking lot, an area the trio was familiar with in order to escape.

Lepp argued that Hunt only ran from the car because he was 20 at the time and he knew it was illegal for him to have cannabis — but he was not being charged with illegal possession of cannabis.

Lepp also pointed out that Hunt was only in the car for a short period of time, it was not registered in his name, and he was not the one driving. Lepp argued that Hunt’s DNA was not on the gun beneath the driver’s seat because he didn’t touch, possess, or even know it was there.

Overall, Lepp argued that Hinman had presented only circumstantial evidence that Hunt knowingly possessed a gun that day.

“Are you going to convict someone on an assumption?” Lepp asked the jury. “No, that’s not the law. The law is proof beyond a reasonable doubt.”

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