All eyes will be on rapper Young Thug as he heads to trial on Jan. 9.
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis is trying to prove that Young Thug is the head of a criminal enterprise. The case, which is expected to take months in court, alleges that Young Thug and his associates engaged in a widespread criminal conspiracy.
On May 9, a grand jury indicted Young Thug (Jeffery Lamar Williams) and 27 co-defendants with conspiracy to violate the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act. This means that each co-defendant is accused of being part of a criminal organization and committing crimes on its behalf.
The indictment alleges that Young Slime Life (YSL) is a criminal street gang enterprise that is affiliated with the national Bloods gang. The prosecution contends that by publicly associating with YSL, each of the co-defendants conspired to violate the RICO Act.
Co-defendants include rappers Gunna (Sergio Kitchens), Yak Gotti (Deamonte Kendrick) and Slimelife Shawty (Wunnie Lee), who have all released music with Young Thug and his label, Young Stoner Life Records.
Young Thug is named as the leader of YSL and one of its co-founders. His attorney maintains that YSL references Young Stoner Life Records, which Young Thug founded in 2016. Young Thug and 14 others named in the original indictment will stand trial.
Of the remaining original co-defendants, six will be tried separately. The eight others have accepted plea deals.
With so many co-defendants facing multiple different charges, there are a lot of moving parts. Here’s what to know before the trial starts.
What is Young Thug charged with?
In addition to conspiracy to violate RICO, on Aug. 5 the grand jury indicted Young Thug on seven more charges. Those charges include two counts of participation in criminal street gang activity, three counts of violation of the Georgia Controlled Substances Act, possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, and possession of a machine gun.
To get a RICO conviction, the prosecutors will have to prove that Young Thug committed at least two of the seven other crimes he is charged with to show that he participated in racketeering activity.
Young Thug is named 43 times. The acts he is accused of include possession with intent to distribute and renting a car that was used in a drive-by shooting.
Are lyrics going to play a role in the trial?
The prosecution has provided song lyrics and social media posts as evidence that the co-defendants participated in the YSL street gang.
For social media posts, the indictment cites photos of defendants wearing “YSL” jewelry and tattoos that nod to the alleged gang activity and conspiracy.
As far as lyrics go, the indictment references multiple songs released by Young Stoner Life Records by Young Thug, Gunna, and a number of other co-defendants.
From Young Thug’ 2014 song “Eww” the prosecution cited lyrics, “Red just like Elmo but I never fuckin’ giggle,” in reference to their argument that YSL is associated with the national Bloods gang.
In “Take It To Trial,” a song released by Young Stoner Life Records in 2020 featuring Young Thug, Gunna and Yak Gotti, the artists are accused of rapping lyrics that indicate they are part of YSL, the street gang.
Yak Gotti raps, “For slimes, you know I’ll kill … trial, I done beat it twice, state, I’m undefeated like feds came and snatched me, I don’t know, no point in askin’.”
The prosecution contends that as popular rappers, references to YSL in their music furthered the gangs’ rise to prominence.
What about Gunna?
Gunna was charged with one count of conspiracy to violate the RICO Act. He is named in nine of the 191 examples from the prosecution of gang activity. In all but one act he is named alongside Young Thug, for things like participation in criminal street gang activity, possession with intent to distribute, and theft by receiving stolen property.
On Dec. 14, Gunna entered an Alford plea to one RICO charge, which means he maintains his innocence while acknowledging that the evidence would likely result in a guilty verdict.
As part of his plea, Gunna will do 500 hours of community service. The plea stipulates that a substantial portion of his community service must be speaking to young people about the “hazards and immorality of gangs and gang violence, and the decay that it causes in the community.”
Who else took a plea?
The majority of the co-defendants were charged with multiple crimes ranging from murder to theft by receiving stolen property in addition to the RICO charge.
Seven co-defendants were only charged with conspiracy to violate the RICO Act, which carries a sentence of between five and 20 years.
Besides Gunna, seven of the 28 co-defendants have entered guilty pleas.
Here’s a breakdown:
- YSL rapper Duke (Martinez Arnold) pled guilty to RICO and criminal street gang charges. He was sentenced to two years, which was commuted to the time he has already served.
Duke’s five other charges were made nolle prosequi, which means they will not be prosecuted. However, should the prosecutor get more evidence, they can refile a new case with the charge.
- Young Thug’s older brother, Unfoonk (Quantavious Grier), pled guilty to RICO and receiving stolen property charges. Unfoonk had his two-year sentence commuted to time served and 10 years probation.
- DK (Walter Murphy) pled guilty to a RICO charge and had his one-year sentence commuted to time served and nine years on probation. DK is named in the indictment as one of the YSL gang’s three co-founders.
- Slimelife Shawty also entered an Alford plea to a RICO charge, the only other co-defendant to do so. He was sentenced to one year, which was commuted to time served and nine years probation.
- Tick (Trontavious Stephens) pled guilty to a RICO charge. He was sentenced to two years, commuted to time served and eight years probation. Stephens is named as YSL’s third co-founder in the indictment
- Obama (Antonio Sumlin) pled guilty to RICO, participation in criminal street gang activity, and two counts of conspiracy to commit a crime. He was sentenced to 15 years of probation.
- Mounk Tounk (Antonio Sledge) pled guilty to RICO and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. He was sentenced to 15 years of probation.
Will the people who pled guilty testify at trial?
While they can be called to testify, none of the co-defendants who accepted a plea deal were on the list of 372 witnesses the district attorney’s office submitted to the court Wednesday.
Not every person on the witness list — which can be amended up until the trial begins on Jan. 9 — will be called to testify.
The DA’s potential witnesses include 157 current and former APD officers, as well as 62 law enforcement officers from other departments around Georgia.
Among the nonexpert witnesses are a number of other prominent rappers, including YFN Lucci, Lil Wayne, Rich Homie Quan, Future, and Birdman.
YFN Lucci is currently facing his own RICO charges and is mentioned multiple times in the YSL indictment as an associate of a rival gang.
Three of Young Thug’s co-defendants, Bobby Hunt (Kahlieff Adams), Sxarfaxe (Damekion Garlington) and Jayman (Jayden Myrick) are accused of attempting to murder YFN Lucci in February last year.
The indictment also accuses two other alleged members of YSL, Obama and Bhris (Christian Eppinger), of asking Young Thug for his permission to make an additional attempt on YFN Lucci’s life.
What could punishment for Young Thug look like if he’s convicted?
If convicted on the RICO charge, he can be sentenced to anywhere between five and 20 years in prison. The prosecution has made it clear that Young Thug is the main target of their case — he is named as a co-founder and the leader of YSL and accused of directing members of the gang to commit multiple crimes.
Of his seven other charges, criminal street gang activity also carries a sentence of five to 20 years, while his charge of possession of codeine with intent to distribute can carry a sentence of five to 30 years. The other charges he is facing all carry shorter sentences. If convicted on multiple counts, he would likely serve the sentences at the same time, not back to back.