YSL attorneys get pay raise capped at $55k
A court-appointed attorney in the massive RICO trial involving Young Thug said she may have to resort to selling pictures of herself on an adult website to compensate for the low pay.
ATLANTA, Ga. (Atlanta News First) - Court-appointed attorneys in Georgia’s largest and longest criminal trial will now be making a higher monthly wage after several felt so grossly underpaid they wanted off the Young Thug/YSL trial altogether.
These attorneys contracted by the Georgia Public Defender Council (GPDC) were set to receive a $15,000 flat rate to represent defendants in the trial, which attorneys said could last up to a year. The council is a taxpayer-funded state agency obligated to provide attorneys to people charged with crimes who cannot afford one.
Late Friday, the attorneys on the case learned from the GPDC they will get a monthly increase with a cap of $55,000. This came one of those attorneys, Angela D’Williams, sent a subpoena to the head of the agency in order to discuss the pay.
Earlier this week, D’Williams told Atlanta News First said she may have to resort to selling pictures of herself on an adult website to compensate for the low pay.
D’Williams is one of multiple attorneys contracted by the GPDC to represent defendants in the Young Thug/YSL trial. D’Williams represents Rodalius Ryan, one of the defendants who, last week, was removed from the Fulton County courtroom on suspicion of marijuana possession.
D’Williams said the council’s previous pay of $15,000 is not enough due to the complexity of the RICO case and how long it’s expected to last. Jury selection began back in January, and to date, not a single juror has been seated.
On Monday, D’Williams told Fulton County Superior Court Judge Ural Glanville she’s repeatedly asked to meet with Omotayo Alli, the council’s director, to learn what the agency is doing to address the pay. When Alli declined, D’Williams subpoenaed her to force her to answer questions about the pay in court.
“It is frustrating but we were under the impression that GPDC was advocating for us and once they put those walls up, I’m thinking I need to start an ‘Only Fans’ [account] because I don’t know what else to do,” D’Williams said. “I’m very serious. I might have to do an ‘Only Fans’ because at least I can still support my client and support me and my family.”
Only Fans is an adult website where people sell pictures and videos of themselves.
At the end of the hearing, D’Williams agreed to give Alli and the GPDC another chance to address the pay issue. “I’m not sure what resources are available because they have refused to meet with me,” D’Williams said. “I’m not sure if there will be additional funding. I’m not able to take other cases. I just need to find out what the plan is. And I don’t know what that plan is. Only the director would be able to explain what the plan is.”
The next hearing on this issue is set for May 17 at 1 p.m.
These latest developments in the massive RICO trial of rapper Young Thug are just the latest to take the trial into another bizarre dimension. Jury selection has already lasted longer than any other in Georgia history, and has been repeatedly been plagued by arrests, charges and disruptions.
A few weeks ago, a potential juror was jailed for filming court proceedings. Back in January, the mother of Deamonte Kendrick - aka Yak Gotti - was arrested and charged with criminal attempt to commit a misdemeanor and issued a $1,500 bond. Latasha Kendrick is accused of trying to pass tobacco products to her son.
Also in January, Kahlieff Adams, a rapper who is also on trial with Young Thug was charged with possession of a schedule 2 controlled substance; possession of less than an ounce of marijuana; possession of an alcoholic beverage by an inmate; and two counts of willful obstruction of law enforcement officers.
Last week, attorney Anastasios Manettas - who represents Miles Farley - was arrested on charges of simple battery on law enforcement officers, possession (pills not in original container), obstruction and disruption of court proceedings. After Manettas’ arrest, Glanville announced Farley’s trial has been severed from the overall YSL case. That means the number of YSL-related defendants in the case is now 13. Farley is accused in the death of Shymel Drinks in a feud between YSL and another gang.
Manettas’ arrest came less than 24 hours after a Fulton County courtroom was evacuated after Ryan was removed was removed from a holding cell after he began screaming.
According to the sheriff’s department, Ryan, aka Lil Rod, was removed from the courtroom due to the suspicion of marijuana, “and did not want to be searched, per safety protocols.”
Over the past year, the GPDC has struggled to hire contract attorneys, despite doubling the rates last year it pays to take on serious felonies, like murder cases.
According to records obtained from the state agency in August, about 600 people were waiting for an attorney to be appointed to them. These are individuals not convicted of a crime, but waiting for their day in court, oftentimes while detained in county jails. The council represents 85% of all people charged with crimes in Georgia who cannot afford an attorney.
In a speech to the Georgia General Assembly in March, Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Michael Boggs told lawmakers there are more than 4,000 pending indictments felony cases in Fulton County. There are almost 14,000 unindicted felony cases currently pending in the county as well.
Last year, Fulton County created a public defender system because it says the GPDC could not retain or hire enough attorneys to represent people languishing in jail for months without representation.
The primary focus of Fulton County’s program is limited to hiring attorneys for individuals charged with crimes that include multiple defendants. Public defense in Georgia typically includes one of three tiers: an attorney who works for the state’s public defender office, an attorney who works in a conflict public defender office, or a private lawyer contracted by the state, known as a “C-3″ attorney.
Fulton County’s “C-3″ system is intended to be a temporary fix to the county’s crisis. It’s funded with money from the American Rescue Plan Act, which the county received to recover from the pandemic. Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney helped get the program get off the ground. “These are not normal times,” McBurney said in an interview this past October with Atlanta News First. “What our county is doing to address this, is not normal.”
According to county records obtained through a public records request, the GPDC has referred at least 105 defendants in need of a “C-3″ attorney to Fulton County’s system since November.
GPDC pays a flat $7,500 fee to private attorneys who agree to represent clients charged with murder. Many attorneys say that rate is not enough to cover the cost of the time, investigative resources and expert witnesses needed to take on serious felondies.
Fulton County’s “C-3″ program pays contract attorneys $140 an hour to represent defendants charged with murder. Since the program launched last summer, it’s assigned at least 42 cases to attorneys.
Williams is facing eight criminal counts under a federal law that was originally enacted to fight organized crime.
The federal Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) law was passed and signed into law in 1970 by President Richard Nixon. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, it allows prosecutors to link apparently unrelated crimes with a common objective into a prosecutable pattern of racketeering.
RICO also provides for more severe penalties and permits a defendant to be convicted and separately punished for the underlying crimes that constitute a racketeering pattern.
Georgia is one of 33 states that has its own RICO law, but in the Peach State, the alleged criminal enterprises do not have to have existed as long as the federal law.
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This story is part of a series about the constitutionally-guaranteed access to legal representation in court, and the challenges that arise when the supply of defenders is limited. Part one in the series looks at defendants’ desperate need for representation. Part two covers judges forced to take actions that may erode the public’s trust in the judicial system. In part three, former public defenders explain why they left the job. Part four looks at the search for solutions. Part five shows the agency’s director admits to lawmakers the Defender Council doesn’t have enough attorneys. Part six explains why the Defender Council does not want to pay for investigative resources for an indigent defendant.
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