Listen to this article

URBANA — A Champaign County jury acquitted a former Champaign man Tuesday of possessing a gun, ammunition and more than 3 pounds of cannabis intended for sale.

The charges were lodged against Tony Warren Jr., 31, of North Hollywood, Calif., in April 2018, three weeks after Champaign County Street Crimes Task Force officers found the contraband in an apartment rented by Warren in the Ginger Creek complex off West Springfield Avenue.

Champaign police Detective Cully Schweska testified that members of the task force, which concentrates on drug and gun crimes, went to the apartment with a search warrant March 28, 2018, but no one was home.

They found a loaded .22-caliber revolver in a bedroom drawer next to documents with Warren’s name on them; about 3.2 pounds of cannabis in a total of four bags in two different rooms; digital scales; and more than three dozen rounds of ammunition for two different guns.

The jury heard that Warren had a prior felony conviction, which precludes him from possessing a weapon or ammunition.

Assistant State’s Attorney Scott Larson presented evidence from the apartment complex’s property manager, who testified that Warren’s name was on the lease, and several officers who told the jury what they found in the apartment and where.

Assistant Public Defender Dan Taylor called only Warren to testify. Although he admitted his name was on the lease, Warren said he had allowed a friend who was unable to get credit to rent his own apartment to stay there.

Warren testified he had moved to Hollywood to further his career as a music producer and screenwriter, but came back occasionally to check on his place in Champaign and pay rent with money orders.

Police said they also found tickets and a document with the other man’s name in the apartment.

Warren testified that he never saw guns, bullets or any sign that someone was selling cannabis there, despite Schweska’s testimony that the smell of cannabis was overwhelming on the whole first floor of the apartment building.

Asked about Instagram photos Warren posted that showed him holding a gun and stacks of cash and having cannabis, Warren said the gun was a prop and the photos were staged as part of his “brand.”

Larson urged the jurors not to suspend their common sense and to realize that all the evidence added up to Warren being a drug dealer. Taylor argued there was nothing specific to tie Warren to the drugs or the gun found in his home.

The six-person jury deliberated about two hours before returning the not-guilty verdicts on all three counts.

Reporter

Mary Schenk is a reporter covering police, courts and breaking news at The News-Gazette. Her email is mschenk@news-gazette.com, and you can follow her on Twitter (@schenk).

Trending Videos