Young Thug, YSL Trial Day 29: DA drops motion to ban cameras from courtroom

The trial of Young Thug and his YSL co-defendants will remain available for the public to view, but attorneys plan to argue which witnesses should be kept anonymous.

Day 29 of the trial will begin in Fulton County court will continue with more testimony and cross-examination focusing on the Atlanta rapper's years of posts on social media.

On Thursday, the Fulton County District Attorney announced that they are dropping their motion requesting all live streams and cameras be banned from filming.

In their filing, the state claimed that one witness was threatened during a live stream while they were testifying. Prosecutors say another witness had their personal cell phone number leaked to the "uncharted wilds of the internet," leading to threats.

Officials are now asking the court to consider anonymity for witnesses and their testimony on a case-by-case basis. Judge Ural Glanville gave attorneys a deadline of 5 p.m. on Friday to specify which witnesses should receive anonymity for next week's testimony.

Young Thug, YSL trial recap 

The case has recently centered around the testimony of Atlanta Police Detective Mark Belknap, a member of the APD's gang unit who had been the first witness in the trial.

The prosecution argues that the Atlanta rapper and his associates' social media posts, hand symbols in photos, lyrics, and clothing connect with illegal and violent gang activity associated with the "Raised on Cleveland" or the "ROC Crew," which Belknap said had connections with the YSL organization.

The defense, led by Young Thug's lawyer Brian Steel, posed in court that nothing in the rapper's social media footage was illegal and that many used as evidence were taken out of context.  

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When was Young Thug arrested?

Young Thug, whose legal name is Jeffery Williams, was arrested on May 9, 2022, after a sweeping 88-page indictment accused him of being the co-founder of Young Slime Life, or YSL, a subset of the Bloods street gang. Prosecutors allege those named in the indictment have engaged in violent criminal activity in the city since 2012.

Jeffery Lamar Williams, who goes by the stage name Young Thug, was arrested on May 9, 2022.

Jeffery Lamar Williams, who goes by the stage name Young Thug, was arrested on May 9, 2022. (Fulton County Sheriff's Office)

Despite requests for bond and an elaborate house arrest plan proposed to the court, Williams remained behind bars after concerns were raised over witness intimidation.

What are the charges Young Thug faces?

A Fulton County grand jury indicted Young Thug in May 2022, and more charges were added in a subsequent indictment in August of that year. The second indictment accuses Young Thug and 27 other people of conspiring to violate Georgia’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, known as RICO. The rapper is also accused of participation in criminal street gang activity, as well as drug and gun charges.

Prosecutors say Young Thug and two other people co-founded a violent criminal street gang in 2012 called Young Slime Life, or YSL, which they say is associated with the national Bloods gang. The indictment says Young Thug "made YSL a well-known name by referring to it in his songs and on social media."

In addition to specific charges, the August indictment includes a wide-ranging list of 191 acts that prosecutors say were committed between 2013 and 2022 as part of the alleged conspiracy to further the gang’s interests.

Included in that list is an allegation that Young Thug threatened in July 2015 to shoot a security guard who was trying to get him to leave an Atlanta-area mall. The indictment also says Young Thug rented a silver Infiniti sedan that was used in the killing of a rival gang member. And, on numerous occasions, he and others are alleged to have possessed various illegal drugs that they intended to distribute.

What do Young Thug's defense lawyers say?

Young Thug’s lawyers have said in multiple court filings that he is innocent of all crimes charged in the indictment. They argue that YSL is simply a record label. The rapper has pleaded not guilty.

Multiple defense attorneys in the case have said prosecutors were overzealous in their use of the RICO statute and the anti-gang law, both of which carry heavy penalties.

Who else is charged in the Young Thug YSL RICO trial?

Rapper Gunna, whose given name is Sergio Kitchens, was charged with a single count of racketeering conspiracy. He entered an Alford plea in December, which means he maintains his innocence but recognizes that it’s in his best interest to plead guilty.

During Gunna’s plea hearing, the rapper responded, "Yes, ma’am" when a prosecutor said that "YSL is a music label and a gang" and that he had knowledge that its members or associates had committed crimes in furtherance of the gang.

The other two people accused of co-founding the YSL gang — Walter Murphy and Trontavious Stephens — were also charged. They each pleaded guilty in December to one count of conspiracy to violate the anti-racketeering law.

The remaining defendants are Marquavius Huey, Deamonte "Yak Gotti" Kendrick, Quamarvious Nichols, Rodalius Ryan and Shannon Stillwell. 

What penalties does Young Thug face if he's convicted?

Young Thug’s racketeering conspiracy charge and two gang charges each carry a penalty of five to 20 years in prison. The other five charges also carry potential prison time.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.