Rapper Young Thug to go to trial in gang, racketeering case
ATLANTA (AP) – Rapper Young Thug, accused by prosecutors of co-founding a criminal street gang responsible for violent crimes and using his songs and social media to promote it, will go on trial starting Monday .
The Atlanta-based artist, whose name is Jeffery Lamar Williams, was charged along with more than two dozen other people in a sweeping indictment last May, with additional charges added in a second indictment in August . Another rapper, Gunna, whose real name is Sergio Kitchens, was also charged.
Young Thug, 31, started rapping as a teenager and has become wildly successful — performing around the world and starting his own record label, Young Stoner Life, or YSL, where he serves as CEO. Artists on his record label are considered part of the “Slime Family”, and a compilation album, “Slime Language 2”, climbed to number one on the charts in April 2021.
He co-wrote the hit “This is America” with Childish Gambino, which became the first hip-hop song to win Grammy Song of the Year in 2019. His hits, including “Stoner” and “Best Friend” , display its noise. , loud vocals.
But prosecutors say YSL also has a darker connotation — a violent street gang called Young Slime Life founded by Young Thug and two others in 2012 and linked to the national Bloods gang. The alleged gang members named in the indictment are accused of committing violent crimes — including murders, shootings and carjackings — to raise money for the gang, burnish its reputation and expand its power and territory.
The indictment includes rap lyrics that prosecutors allege are overt acts “in furtherance of the conspiracy,” including a line from a song Young Thug says posted on YouTube: “I’m in VIP and I got that gun on my hip, you pray that you may live, I pray that I strike you.” Another of his texts cited in the indictment reads: “I never killed anyone, but I have something to do with that body.”
The original indictment charged 28 people with conspiracy to violate Georgia’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO, and also included other charges against many of them. Fourteen of them will go on trial, which begins on Monday and is expected to last for months.
Eight others, including Gunna, have already taken plea deals in the case, and six — four of whom do not have attorneys and two who have not been arrested — will be arraigned later, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
The August indictment charges Young Thug with conspiracy and participation in criminal street gang activity, as well as drug and weapons charges.
One of 11 siblings with six children, Young Thug has deep roots in his native Atlanta and works tirelessly on his art and other legitimate business ventures, his lawyers said in a filing. court in May who unsuccessfully sought his release on bail.
Attached to that file were letters from more than a dozen music industry executives who have worked with Young Thug. They describe him as one of the most successful hip-hop artists in the world, a devoted father and friend, a generous contributor to his community and a nurturing mentor to other artists.
In addition to the specific charges, the August indictment includes a broad list of 191 acts that prosecutors say were committed between 2013 and 2022 as part of the alleged RICO conspiracy to further the gang’s interests.
Included in that list is an allegation that Young Thug threatened in July 2015 to shoot a security guard who was trying to force him out of an Atlanta-area mall. In many cases, he and others allegedly possessed various illegal drugs that they intended to distribute.
The indictment also accuses alleged gang associates of trying to kill rapper YFN Lucci in the Fulton County Jail last February and says an alleged gang associate shot at a bus in 2015 that was transporting rapper Lil Wayne.
Gunna pleaded guilty last month to one count of conspiracy to violate the RICO Act, entering an Alford plea, which means he maintains his innocence but acknowledges it is in his best interest to plead guilty. the fault.
He said in a statement released by his lawyers that when he joined YSL in 2016, he did not consider it a “gang” but rather “a group of people from metro Atlanta who shared common interests and artistic aspirations.” Gunna also emphasized that he has not cooperated or agreed to testify for or against either side in this case.
In court, before the judge accepted the plea, when a prosecutor said that YSL is a music label and a gang and that Gunna knew that its members or associates had committed crimes in support of the gang, Gunna replied: “Yes, ma ‘ am.”
He was sentenced to five years with one year suspended and the balance suspended. He must also testify truthfully if called by any party in the case and must do 500 hours of community service, including talking to young people about “the dangers and immorality of gangs and gang violence.”
The other two alleged co-founders of the YSL gang — Walter Murphy and Trontavious Stephens — also pleaded guilty last month to one count of conspiracy to violate the RICO Act. Murphy was sentenced to 10 years, one year commuted to time served and nine years suspended. Stephens also received 10 years, with two years commuted to time served and eight years on probation.