Young Thug/YSL trial: Attorney Brian Steel compares trial to 'communist Russia'

Young Thug's attorney Brian Steel's comments in court took center stage on Day 91 of the Young Thug/YSL trial in Fulton County, where Kenneth "Lil Woody" Copeland returned to the stand. 

During Thursday morning's session, the prosecution questioned Copeland about the murder of Donovan "Big Nutt" Thomas. Two of the defendants in the trial are accused of killing Thomas in 2015. However, Copeland's repeated responses of "I don't recall," "I don't remember," and "If he said I said it, I said it" frustrated the prosecutors from the Fulton County District Attorney's Office. 

Later, Steel raised concerns to Judge Glanville about Copeland's treatment and handling within the courtroom and its vicinity. Steel noted that Copeland was often escorted by law enforcement and members of the district attorney’s office during breaks, which he found inappropriate. He observed that these individuals frequently positioned themselves near the courtroom's double doors, making eye contact with Copeland while he testified, suggesting possible coercion or undue influence.

Steel asserted that Copeland appeared to be under the undue influence of the prosecution, implying coercion. He questioned why Copeland would voluntarily spend time with prosecutors and expressed frustration over the lack of full access to all information, accusing the Fulton County District Attorney's Office of unfair tactics.

"Every time Mr. Copeland comes in or out of the courtroom, he's escorted by a DA's office investigator. You see that? This court is observant. You're not just sitting there in a cloud. You see exactly what's going on. You hear the prosecutor tell you, we were in a room with Mr. Copeland, and he said to you, why? Why do I have to bring it up? You should be bringing it up. This is crazy. This is like communist Russia. Mr. Williams is having the worst trial. So I'm moving again to stop intimidating the witness by the prosecution, leave people alone, and stop accusing," Steel told the judge.

Steel has made it very clear that he is not happy with how the trial for his client, Jeffery Williams, is proceeding. There have been multiple confrontations between the defense attorney, the judge, and the prosecutors. Steel has also asked for a mistrial many times. 

 Steel was even taken into custody on Monday after refusing to disclose how he learned about a conversation between Copeland and the prosecutors in the judge's chambers. Following his continued refusal, Judge Glanville sentenced him to 20 days (10 weekends) in jail. However, on Wednesday, the Georgia Supreme Court granted Steel's emergency motion, staying Judge Glanville's order.

Copeland, who was initially held in contempt of court for refusing to testify, has been both cooperative and uncooperative since he finally agreed to testify on Monday.

On Thursday, he was clearly tiring of answering questions. He began answering every question with "yes" after the lunch break. When asked if he was just trying to move things along, he confirmed with another "yes." 

When he was asked if he was now lying in court, Copeland initially refused to answer. However, shortly after, Copeland told the prosecutor, "Let me make myself clear... I was not truthful. I was saying whatever they wanted me to say....I was trying my best to convince them that I didn't do nothing.....I know I wasn't being truthful."

The prosecution has claimed several times that Copeland's testimony has changed dramatically from what he reportedly told police in the past to what he is now saying. 


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 named Donovan "Big Nutt" Thomas. And, on numerous occasions, he and others are alleged to have possessed various illegal drugs that they intended to distribute.

Who is on trial with Young Thug?

The other defendants still facing trial include Marquavius Huey, Deamonte Kendrick (known as Yak Gotti), Quamarvious Nichols, Rodalius Ryan and Shannon Stillwell.

The other defendants who have already pleaded guilty to various charges prior to jury selection include Gunna, whose given name is Sergio Kitchens; Young Thug's older brother, Quantavious Grier (Unfoonk); Trontavious Stephens (Tick); and Antonio Sledge (Mounk Tounk).