Rapper Young Thug appeared in court; accused of co-founding a criminal street gang that uses song lyrics to promote violent crime

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ATLANTA, GA – Rapper Young Thug, accused by prosecutors of co-founding a criminal street gang responsible for violent crimes and using his songs and social media to promote it, is set to go on trial starting Monday.

The Atlanta artist, whose name is Jeffrey Lamar Williams, was indicted along with more than two dozen other people in a sweeping indictment last May, with additional charges added in a second indictment in August. Gunn’s fellow rapper, whose real name is Sergio Kitchens, was also charged.

Young Thug, 31, began rapping as a teenager and has gone on to become wildly successful, performing all over the world and starting his own record label, Young Stoner Life, or YSL, where he is the CEO. The artists on his record label are considered part of the “Slime Family” and the compilation “Slime Language 2” climbed to number 1 in the charts in April 2021.

He co-wrote the hit song “This is America” ​​with Childish Gambino, which became the first hip-hop track to win a Grammy in 2019. His hits, including “Stoner” and “Best Friend,” feature his squeaky, high-pitched vocals.

But prosecutors say YSL also has a darker side — a violent street gang called Young Slime Life, founded by Young Thug and two others in 2012 and affiliated with the national Bloods gang.

The alleged gang members named in the indictment are accused of committing violent crimes — including murders, shootings and carjackings — to raise money for the gang, improve its reputation and expand its power and territory.

The indictment includes rap lyrics that prosecutors say are overt acts “in furtherance of the conspiracy,” including a line from a song they say Young Thug released on YouTube: “I’m in a VIP , and I’ve got this gun on my hip, you pray you live, I pray I strike.”

Another of his texts, cited in the indictment, says: “I never killed anyone, but I had something to do with this body.”

The original indictment charged 28 people with conspiracy to violate Georgia’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO, and included other charges against many of them. Fourteen of them are due to go on trial, which starts on Monday and is expected to last several months.

Eight others, including Gunn, have already taken plea deals in the case, and six others — four of whom do not have attorneys and two of whom have not been arrested — will be tried at a later date, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

The August indictment charges Young Thug with racketeering and participating in criminal street gang activity, as well as drug and weapons charges.

One of 11 siblings with six children of his own, Young Thug has deep roots in his native Atlanta and works tirelessly on his art and other legitimate, legitimate business ventures, his lawyers said in a May court filing that unsuccessfully sought his bail.

Attached to that filing were letters from more than a dozen music industry executives who worked with Young Thug. They describe him as one of the most successful hip-hop artists in the world, a devoted father and friend, a generous contributor to his community and a nurturing mentor to other artists.

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

That list includes an allegation that in July 2015, Young Thug threatened to shoot a security guard who tried to force him to leave an Atlanta-area mall. It is believed that on numerous occasions he and others were in possession of various illegal drugs that they intended to distribute.

The indictment also accuses alleged gang associates of trying to kill rapper YFN Lucci in the Fulton County Jail last February and says the alleged gang associate shot at a bus in 2015 carrying rapper Lil Wayne.

Guna pleaded guilty last month to one count of conspiracy to violate the RICO Act, entering an Alphand plea, which means he maintains his innocence but acknowledges that it is in his best interest to plead guilty.

In a statement released by his lawyers, he said that when he became an affiliate of YSL in 2016, he did not consider it a “gang” but rather “a group of people from metro Atlanta who shared common interests and artistic aspirations.”

Guna also emphasized that he did not cooperate or agree to testify for or against either side in the case.

In court, before the judge took a plea when the prosecutor said that YSL was a music label and a gang and that Anna knew that its members or associates had committed crimes in support of the gang, Guna replied: “Yes, ma’am.”

He was sentenced to five years with one year suspended. He must also give truthful evidence if subpoenaed by any party in the case and must complete 500 hours of community service, including speaking to young people about the “dangers and immorality of gangs and gang violence”.

The other two alleged co-founders of the YSL gang — Walter Murphy and Trontavius ​​Stevens — also pleaded guilty last month to one count of conspiracy to violate the RICO Act. Murphy was sentenced to 10 years with one year substituted for time served and nine years of probation.

Stevens also received 10 years with two years substituted for time served and eight years of probation.

This story used information from the Associated Press.

Copyright © 2023, The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Rapper Young Thug appeared in court; accused of co-founding a criminal street gang that uses song lyrics to promote violent crime

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