Former prosecutor weighs in on RICO charges against Young Thug, Gunna, YSL crew
ATLANTA - RICO charges have been filed and arrests made in a widespread racketeering case that names Atlanta rappers Young Thug, also known as Jeffery Williams, and Gunna, also known as Sergio Kitchens, in addition to 26 other members of their group "YSL".
"There are many people looking at life under this indictment," Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis said during a news conference Tuesday.
RAPPER GUNNA ARRESTED ON RICO CHARGES IN ATLANTA
Jeffery Williams, whose stage name is "Young Thug," Sergio Kitchens, whose stage name is "Gunna." (Fulton County Sheriff's Office)
Williams is facing additional charges after police found guns and drugs during a raid of his Buckhead home. Rapper Gunna, whose real name is Sergio Kitchens, made a first appearance in court Wednesday after turning himself in to the Fulton County Jail early that morning.
"It’s very, very hard to have somebody walk out of there in a gang case," said criminal defense attorney Manny Arora.
READ THE FULL LIST OF THOSE INDICTED AND THE CHARGES
In a news conference Tuesday, Willis said her office has prosecuted at least four of five RICO cases since she began her term. Arora, who once worked in the DA’s office, told FOX 5 doing so through RICO, which stands for Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization, is a strategy that’s become increasingly popular in the effort to prosecute individuals deemed gang members.
"Charging somebody in a gang statute or a RICO statute makes it so much easier to convict them because you get to bring in so much extra character evidence," he explained.
During that news conference Tuesday, Willis called it a "tool" she believes in.
"The reason I believe in it as a tool is because it allows juries and the communities to see the complete picture of the crime so they can truly be educated and have facts to weigh when they’re making decisions."
WHAT IS THE RICO ACT AND HOW IS IT USED?
Under the RICO statute, charges any of the defendants face individually can be shared.
"You’ve got so many defendants that no matter what number 28 did, it’s gonna go back on number one even if they’ve never met each other," Arora said.
The Fulton County District Attorney’s Office released this image from social media that was referenced in the indictment of rapper Young Thug and 27 other members of the YSL enterprise. The DA says the post supports "an overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy." (Fulton County District Attorney's Office)
Arora Law Firm attorney Devin Rafus said while the scope of evidence in a RICO case this size can make keeping up with evidence a challenge for prosecutors, it could also open the door for prejudice against the defense. The 88-page indictment includes song lyrics from Williams.
"It should be protected under the first amendment as constitutional free speech, the problem is they use that, they bring it in, they say he talked about committing murder in this lyric that he wrote so he must’ve done it," he explained.
Arora predicts with the seriousness of the charges, it’s unlikely any of the 28 defendants will be granted bond. Willis also said the public will likely see the DA’s office bring RICO case indictments against other street gangs they’ve identified as well in the near future.