The prosecution commenced opening statements on Monday morning for the racketeering trial involving Grammy-winning rapper Young Thug. He stands accused of leading a violent street gang in the Atlanta area, affiliated with the national Bloods gang.
Young Thug, also known as Jeffery Williams, faces charges alongside over two dozen others under the state’s broad Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO. This law was the same one Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis used in August to indict former President Donald Trump and 18 others for alleged involvement in trying to overturn the 2020 election.
Several defendants, including rapper Gunna and Young Thug’s older brother, accepted plea deals last December. Others were removed from the case for various reasons, including representation issues.
Among six defendants standing trial in an Atlanta courtroom, Young Thug pleaded not guilty to all charges, as confirmed by the judge on Monday.
His defense attorney, Brian Steel, staunchly maintains Young Thug’s innocence, asserting that he “committed no crime whatsoever” in previous statements to CNN.
The trial began on Monday but briefly paused after Fulton County Superior Court Judge Ural Glanville revealed one juror couldn’t be located. Roughly 40 minutes later, the court resumed after the missing juror was found.
This trial will test the scope of the state’s RICO law, the contentious use of rap lyrics as evidence by prosecutors, and will also weigh on Willis’ credibility preceding Trump’s impending trial.
Initially charged and arrested in May 2022 for allegedly conspiring to violate the RICO statute and engaging in criminal street gang activity, Young Thug is portrayed by prosecutors as the co-founder of the criminal street gang, Young Slime Life. They attribute violent acts spanning a decade to this gang.
Serious allegations against him include accusations that in 2015, he rented a car subsequently used in the murder of a rival gang member.
A reindictment in August 2022 brought forth additional charges related to gang activity, along with allegations of drug and firearms violations. These charges stemmed from a search warrant executed at the rapper’s residence, where authorities allegedly discovered drugs and firearms, as per Steel’s account to CNN affiliate WXIA.