Jury selection is underway for the trial of Young Thug and some members of his Young Stoner Life Records label. It will likely take weeks to find a jury for the trial, which is expected to take anywhere from six to nine months. Each of the 14 co-defendants lawyers will have the opportunity to ask questions and dismiss potential jurors.
In May 2021, a grand jury indicted Young Thug and 27 co-defendants with conspiracy to violate the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act. The indictment alleges that YSL stands for Young Slime Life, a criminal street gang enterprise that is affiliated with the national Bloods gang.
Young Thug’s arrest and the subsequent indictments in the case have been celebrated as a victory for combating gang violence in Atlanta, which Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis’ office has made a top priority.
On the city’s southside, however, where the YSL street gang allegedly operated, residents aren’t viewing the situation as black and white.
“He’s one of our brothers from this community,” said Danny Rakestraw, who moved to the area from Conyers seven years ago.
Rakestraw, a muralist who works at Cleveland Ave Barber Shop, said he’s noticed a change in the community since the indictment was announced.
“[The arrests] scared a lot of people,” Rakestraw said. “Normally there would be a lot of young people everywhere, but now, as you can see, they’re kind of keeping to themselves — it’s a good thing, ’cause crime down is always a good thing.”
Linda Moore, a retired sanitation worker in South Atlanta, said that while she has felt safer in the past few months, she can’t say that it’s because of Young Thug’s arrest. Moore noted that things have quieted down, and she thinks that is because the youth are sad about the arrest.
While she acknowledges some things have been different lately, Moore said she doesn’t want to see Young Thug sent to jail.
“He’s young and when people are young they do ignorant things,” Moore said. “I hope he gets out and looks forward, and not back to them folks he used to be around.”
Moore continued that she hopes that now he knows “you can’t be around everybody or you will end up in a cage.”
Tesharri Simon is a senior at Carver High School, and lives in the area. She doesn’t think the community is safer by having Young Thug in jail.
“They’re still shooting around here,” she said.
Simon added that most of the people she has spoken with in the community — fellow students and adults — are hoping he doesn’t get sent to prison.
“Yeah, he might’ve done bad stuff, but he did all the other good for the community, stuff that the government’s really supposed to be doing,” she said.
Whitney Smith is a health care worker who lives in the community and shares Simon’s sentiment. Smith wants people to acknowledge all the good things Young Thug did prior to being arrested. She’s noticed that morale in general has been down since Young Thug has been locked up.
“There’s a lot of stuff that he was doing before, as far as being productive in the community, that’s not happening anymore,” she said. “Like he was actually financially providing for people. Literally giving out money and gifts, and taking care of kids that’s not his.”
The trial is expected to begin in the coming weeks after a 12-person jury is selected from a pool of 600 potential people. As for Young Thug’s future, residents are worried about the criminal justice system playing out in his favor.
“I can’t say I feel safer now, ’cause I never felt unsafe,” Rakestraw said. “I feel more depressed, ’cause I don’t think they’ll get a fair trial.”