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Opening statements set to begin in Young Thug’s racketeering trial

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(NEW YORK) — Opening statements in the trial of hip-hop star Young Thug, who is facing gang-related charges in a sweeping RICO indictment in Fulton County, Georgia, are expected to begin on Monday.

The rapper’s attorney, Brian Steel, confirmed the development to ABC News.

This comes nearly 11 months after jury selection began and after a judge ruled that prosecutors can “conditionally” use rap lyrics as alleged evidence in this case.

The Grammy-winning rapper, whose legal name is Jeffrey Lamar Williams, was initially charged on May 10, 2022 with one count each of conspiring to violate the state’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act and participating in criminal street gang activity, and was later charged with an additional count of participating in street gang activity, three counts of violating the Georgia controlled substances act, possession of a firearm while committing a felony and possession of a machine gun.

He has pleaded not guilty to all eight counts.

“Mr. Williams has committed no violation of law, whatsoever,” Steel told ABC News in May 2022, after the charges were announced by the Fulton County District Attorney’s office.

Young Thug’s legal team filed several motions over the past year to have him released on bond but they were all denied and he has remained in custody since his arrest on May 9, 2022.

It took nearly 10 months for Judge Ural Glanville to seat a jury in this case and now Young Thug is set to stand trial along with five other co-defendants.

The charges the rapper is facing stem from a sweeping grand jury indictment that named 28 individuals who are allegedly associated with the Atlanta-based Young Slime Life (YSL) – a gang that prosecutors allege Young Thug founded in 2012. But YSL, which is also the acronym for “Young Stoner Life,” is the name of the rapper’s label – an imprint of 300 Entertainment. The label is not named in the indictment. Lyrics were listed in the indictment as part of the alleged evidence.

Over the past year, several co-defendants took plea deals and the judge ruled that several others would be tried separately.

Although the scope of the indictment goes far beyond the use of rap lyrics, the inclusion of lyrics – performed by Young Thug and other co-defendants – as part of the alleged evidence, in this case, prompted outrage from artists across the music industry and helped spark a movement that came to be known as “Protect Black Art.”

Steel filed a motion in December 2022 asking the judge to stop prosecutors from using lyrics as evidence in this case, but Glanville denied the motion in a November ruling, where he determined that 17 sets of lyrics mentioned in the indictment can be preliminarily admitted in the trial.

“I’m conditionally admitting those pending lyrics, depending upon – or subject to a foundation that is properly laid by the state or the proponent that seeks to admit that evidence,” Glanville said.

The judge added that if prosecutors intend to include additional lyrics as part of the alleged evidence in this case, they can be submitted for the judge’s review.

 

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