Jury selection remains slow in Young Thug, YSL RICO trial

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Judge in Young Thug, YSL RICO trial explains selection process to potential jurors

Hundreds of potential jurors came to the Fulton County courthouse on the first day of selection in the trial of Young Thug, legally known as Jeffery Williams. Judge Ural Glanville explained the process and thanked potential jurors.

It's been over a month and a half and still not one juror has been seated in Fulton County's racketeering and gang trial involving rapper Young Thug and more than a dozen other defendants.

Hundreds of potential jurors have been summoned, many have requested hardship deferrals, which the judge has approved. This is because the trial could take up to a year. It is a sprawling case with more than a dozen defendants.

Prosecutors say Young Thug, whose real name is Jeffrey Lamar Williams, of leading Young Slime Life, a violent street gang that used drugs and committed murders to make money. Defense lawyers argue he is just an artist falsely accused of being a criminal.

Legal experts say the case will be complicated and drawn out, especially for such a well-known star.

Officials say alleged attempts to smuggle contraband to defendants also causing delays.

One defendant’s mother was arrested in January, accused of bringing "tobacco products" to her son in a bag of clothes. Fulton County Superior Court Chief Judge Ural Glanville said the week before that someone hid marijuana in shoes brought for a defendant.


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Alleged drug deal during Young Thug RICO case

The Young Thug RICO case has taken, by most accounts, an unusual twist. An alleged drug deal happened in open court. Prosecutors say they have the video to prove it

On Jan. 18, defendant Khalieff Adams was accused of handing a Percocet pill to Williams in the courtroom, prosecutors said in a motion they filed a day later.

"Defendant Adams, who is currently serving a life-without-parole sentence for murder, conducted a hand-to-hand drug transaction with Defendant Jeffery Lamar Williams, in open court," the motion said.

The prosecution motion says that in response to a request from deputies, Young Thug turned over the pain pill. Deputies then searched Khalieff Adams and found Percocet, marijuana, tobacco and other contraband, the motion says.

"Deputies quickly apprehended the detainee and took possession of the contraband, and completed a search to ensure no more contraband was present," the sheriff’s office said in a statement.

Who is expected to testify during the YSL RICO trial?

The witness list for the prosecution and the defense contains hundreds of names, including artists like Lil Wayne, Rich Homie Quan and YFN Lucci.

There were also 157 witnesses affiliated with the Atlanta Police Department.


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Who is expected to testify at rapper Young Thug's RICO trial?

Fulton County prosecutors say Young Thug, whose real name is Jeffery Williams, is one of the founder of Young Slime Life, a violent Atlanta street gang. The rapper says he's an artist who's been falsely accused. A look at the high-profile witness list

What is YSL?

Fulton County prosecutors say Young Slime Life is a violent criminal street gang that’s commonly known as YSL and is affiliated with the national Bloods gang. They said it was founded in 2012. 
Defendants in the case claim that YSL is not a criminal entity, and not to be confused with Young Stoner Life Records, the music label Williams founded.

Rapper Gunna said in a statement he didn’t consider it a gang but rather "a group of people from metro Atlanta who had common interests and artistic aspirations." His focus was entertainment, he said, "rap artists who wrote and performed music that exaggerated and ‘glorified’ urban life in the Black community."

Who else was indicted?

According to a previous indictment, YSL’s founders were Jeffery Williams, Walter Murphy--also known as "DK"--and Trontavious Stephens, also known as "Tick" and "Slug." 

Several people named in the indictment appear in Young Stoner Life songs, including Yak Gotti (Deamonte Kendrick) and Unfoonk (Quantavious Grier). Kendrick is one of five people named in the initial indictment for allegedly fatally shooting Donovan Thomas.

Miles Farley, seen in social media posts promoting a clothing brand called "Make America Slime Again," was charged with murder in the initial indictment. He’s one of four people charged in the deadly shooting of "rival gang member" Shymel Drinks. 

Prosecutors implicated Farley in YSL, saying he was in photos on social media wearing clothing with the words "Slime" and "is you slime enough." His attorney claims he should be allowed to freely express himself with his clothing, which is not an indication he’s a criminal.

A man accused of shooting a police officer in Atlanta was among the dozens named in the initial indictment. Christian Eppinger, also known as Bhris, was indicted for attempted murder and murder. He was arrested and charged in April in the shooting of Atlanta Police Officer David Rogers, who was trying to arrest him.

What is the RICO Act?

The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO, was developed to fight organized crime.

The U.S. Department of Justice has used RICO to take down multiple crime families and street gangs.

Violating RICO carries a maximum of 20 years and a fine that is "greater of $25,000 or three times the amount of pecuniary gain."

Under RICO, victims impacted can seek civil recourse without the defendant being able to hide behind bankruptcy to skirt judgment or restitution.

Does free speech come into play?

Prosecutors use lyrics from Young Thug and Gunna songs in their RICO act case. The indictment mentions a song "Take It To Trial," and its lyrics: "take this (expletive) to (expletive) trial," "for slimes you know kill, trial, done beat it twice..." 

Rep. Hank Johnson said the case may be an overstep of Fulton County’s authority. He introduced a bill to protect lyrics in these kinds of cases.

"The case here in Fulton County demonstrates a need for guardrails to protect creative expression of artists," Johnson said.

Gunna’s statement following his guilty plea explained song lyrics "exaggerated" urban life.

What is Young Thug famous for?

Williams launched the Young Stoner Life record label. 

He hit No. 1 on the Billboard 200 album chart for the second time with "DS4Ever" this year.

Young Thug co-wrote the hit "This is America" with Childish Gambino, another Atlanta-area native. That song became the first hip-hop track to win the song of the year Grammy in 2019. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.