Young Thug’s trial: 10 questions and their fascinating answers
Jeffery Williams is on trial in Atlanta. Here’s everything you need to know.
ATLANTA, Ga. (Atlanta News First) - After months of juror screenings, bizarre courtroom antics and pocketbook complaints from attorneys, a jury has finally been chosen in rapper Young Thug’s historic organized crime trial in Atlanta.
Here’s a primer on Young Thug’s trial so far; who are the major players; and what’s going to happen next.
I don’t like hip-hop. Who’s Young Thug?
Who’s Young Thug? Where you been? And who don’t like hip-hop?
OK, so rap isn’t for everyone, but Young Thug is a big deal in American music.
His real name is Jeffery Williams, and he’s one of the most decorated rappers in history, having won multiple Grammys, MTV video music awards, and BET and American Music Awards.
But he’s also in trouble - BIG TROUBLE - with the law. Before this trial, Young Thug had been arrested multiple times throughout metro Atlanta on various gun and drug possession charges.
But even behind bars, Young Thug is still ‘da man. I mean, who else could release a brand new album while stewing in a jail cell?
But he’s not alone in this, right?
Right. Young Thug and 28 other people were arrested at the same time. But some of them have pleaded out; others have had their upcoming trials severed from Williams’ case; so now Young Thug and five other people are being tried at the same time:
- Marquavius Huey, aka “Qua”
- Deamonte Kendrick, aka “Yak Gotti”
- Quamarvious Nichols, aka “Qua”
- Rodalius Ryan, aka “Lil Rod”
- Shannon Stillwell, aka “Shannon Jackson” or “SB”
BIG UPDATE: Only hours after a jury was seated, , Derontae Bebee, aka “Bee” or “B,” cut a deal with prosecutors. On Nov. 3, Beebe pled guilty to conspiracy to violate the state’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), armed robbery, hijacking a motor vehicle, theft by receiving stolen property, violation of the Georgia Controlled Substances Act, possession of a firearm by convicted felon, and participation in criminal street gang activity.
As part of his negotiated plea, he was sentenced to 15 years in prison, with five to be served behind bars and 10 on probation. Bebee will receive credit for the two years he has already served in jail, according to prosecutors.
Young Thug is facing eight criminal counts under a federal law that was originally enacted to fight organized crime. 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.
Williams is also charged with possession of marijuana with intent to distribute; possession of codeine with intent to distribute; possession of cocaine; possession of a firearm; and possession of a machine gun.
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis and her office are leading the case against Young Thug. Willis is the DA for Georgia’s largest county home to the cities of Atlanta, Sandy Springs and South Fulton. Willis is Fulton’s first female DA.
On the courtroom’s other side is Brian Steel of the Steel Law Firm. Steel has been a defense attorney since 1991. His firm calls Steel “Georgia’s most successful criminal appellate attorney, with over 200 published opinions approximately 40 reversals to his credit.” Keith Adams is also on Young Thug’s legal team.
Here are the attorneys representing the other defendants in the trial:
- Careton R. Matthews for Marquavius Huey
- E. Jay Abt, Katie Hingerty and Doug Weinstein for Deamonte Kendrick
- Bruce Harvey for Quamarvious Nichols
- Angela D’Williams for Rodalius Ryan
- Maxwell Schardt and R. David Botts for Shannon Stillwell
Not a man you want to mess with. Just ask some of the prospective jurors who didn’t follow his instructions.
Fulton County Superior Court Chief Judge Ural Glanville is the man unquestionably in charge. He’s served on the court since 2005 and is also the chief judge of the Atlanta Judicial Circuit. He holds the rank of Brigadier General, Chief Judge in the U.S. Army Court of Criminal Appeals, and has served as a commanding general in the NATO Rule of Law Support Mission/Rule of Law Field Force-Afghanistan.
Right now, opening statements are set to begin Monday, Nov. 27, the Monday after Thanksgiving.
And you read that right: trials have opening statements and closing arguments. That’s according to our news director, so we had to get that one right.
Well, juror screening has already lasted 10 months, and Schiffer said we can expect about five months of actual testimony.
The jury selection has already lasted longer than any other trial in Georgia history. Georgia’s longest jury selection and its longest trial both came in the Atlanta Public Schools teacher scandal of 2014-15.
Some of the biggest names in hip-hop and local politics,
The rapper known as Killer Mike - real name Michael Render - and Corey Jackson, a.k.a. Lil C-Note and a Young Thug protégé, are on the witness list, as is Atlanta City Councilman Antonio Lewis. Rapper Brian “Birdman” Williams is also on the list.
Ever heard of the First Amendment; you know, free speech and all that? That’s going to become a key focus of the trial.
Willis and prosecutors are going to try and use Young Thug’s rap lyrics against him during the trial, saying they’re evidence of an “overt act in furtherance of a (gang) conspiracy,” which is what the rapper is charged with, in the first place.
Democrats such as U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson from metro Atlanta’s 4th district say that’s not fair.
“Black history is under attack, Black culture is under attack, rap music is under attack,” Johnson said recently, and he has introduced another bill in Congress that would protect artists from having their lyrics and creative expression used against them in court.
As of 2020, prosecutors in more than 500 criminal cases have used artists’ lyrics as evidence against the artist..
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