Young Thug’s Lyrics Used Against Him As Gang Trial Starts
Rapper Young Thug’s racketeering trial has begun with Georgia prosecutors accusing him of being a gang
leader in charge of a “wolf pack”.
The Atlanta rapper, born Jeffery Lamar Williams, is accused of co-founding a violent street gang in his
hometown. Prosecutors are using the critically acclaimed performer’s own lyrics as evidence against him.
The rapper is accused of racketeering – the same charge facing ex-US President Donald Trump in the
state Mr. Williams, 32, has been in jail since his May 2022 arrest on charges that also include participating in criminal street gang activity.
Fulton County Deputy District Attorney Adriane Love told the jury the rapper oversaw dozens of crimes
that left a “crater” in Fulton County. That crater “sucked in the youth, innocence and even the lives of
some of its youngest members”, she alleged.
In Monday’s colourful opening statement, which was interrupted several times by defence attorneys,
Mrs Love said that Mr Williams’ lyrics “bore a very eerie significance to real life” and the crimes the gang
is alleged to have committed. Her opening statement included portions of lyrics, including one from another allegedly associated gang
member referring to a murder.
The opening day of the trial, however, was marred by repeated objections, delays and a call for a
mistrial, prompting Judge Ural Glanville to remark that he is “not happy about this”.
Georgia prosecutors used the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (Rico) Act – famously used
in mafia prosecutions – to charge the rapper and 27 associates who were allegedly involved in the
criminal enterprise at various levels.
Neama Rahmani, a trial lawyer who is closely watching both cases in Fulton County, says that if
prosecutors can win their case against YSL, they are more likely to succeed in prosecuting Mr Trump and
his alleged co-conspirators.
The challenge, he says, is that “organisation” under the Rico law is “really loosely defined”. In both YSL
and the Trump campaign’s case, prosecutors are wading into “uncharted waters”, Mr Rahmani says, as it
is unclear whether they will meet the legal standard.
Prosecutors say they plan to call up to 400 witnesses in Mr Williams’ trial to clarify the “organisation” at
its centre. Popular rappers such as Killer Mike, Lil Wayne, and TI could be among those set to testify.
The trial, which is expected to last around six months, is part of an investigation that prosecutors said
has been ongoing for about 10 years.
During that period, Young Thug – who co-wrote the Donald Glover song “This is America” – has been a
growing force in hip-hop.
This month Judge Glanville ruled that prosecutors would be allowed to use some of Mr Williams’ rap
lyrics as evidence that crimes had been committed by the defendants.
That lyrics from his songs are being used as evidence in the case has raised questions about free speech,
artistic expression and racial bias, but prosecutors dismissed those arguments.