After an almost year-long jury selection process, Young Thug‘s trial for the alleged violent acts he committed over the past decade is finally underway.
According to CNN, prosecutors believe the rapper’s label, YSL, an acronym for Young Stoner Life, also stands for Young Slime Life, an Atlanta-based street gang linked to the national Bloods gang. Prosecutors say Thug, whose birth name is Jeffery Williams, is a co-founder of the gang and, if found guilty, could spend decades behind bars.
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis’ office is taking on the case. They say YSL has caused “havoc” in Atlanta for years. Hours after the “Tapout” rapper’s 2022 arrest, Willis noted the 32-year-old’s stardom would not stop them from seeking justice.
“It does not matter what your notoriety is, what your fame is,” she said at a press conference announcing the case.
The rapper’s lawyer, Brian Steel, has maintained Williams’ innocence.
“Mr. Williams committed no crime whatsoever,” he said at the time of the rapper’s arrest.
Williams was not the only hip-hop act sought by prosecutors for his alleged involvement in YSL. The district attorney’s office also filed charges against Sergio “Gunna” Kitchens, as well as Deamonte “Yak Gotti” Kendrick, Arnold “Lil Duke” Martinez, Thug’s brother Quantavious “Unfoonk” Grier and many others for their alleged criminal activity.
Read on for a refresher on what happened, what prosecutors believe these artists did and what to expect now that Williams’ trial is underway.
It all started in May 2022, when Willis unleashed a 56-count indictment against Thug and 27 other suspected members of YSL. Prosecutors believe the label is a front for “Young Slime Life,” a gang affiliated with the Bloods.
The case argues that, since 2012, YSL has committed a significant number of crimes in the Atlanta area, including murder, assault, robbery, theft, illegal gun possession, illegal drug possession and sales and more. Prosecutors believe Williams is the operation’s kingpin. They’ve dubbed him “King Slime,” who “made YSL a well-known name” by “referring to it in his songs.”
Court documents deem Williams a dangerous gang leader. They show he allegedly threatened to shoot a security guard in the face; he had flashed the gang’s alleged hand signal numerous times, including on social media; and he rapped about the criminal group. Prosecutors say Williams gave other alleged YSL members the order to kill rapper YFN Lucci, who is said to have allegedly been the leader of a rival gang.
Steel said the accusations were outrageous and painted a different picture of the rapper’s life. During a 2022 bond hearing, music industry icon Kevin Liles jumped to Williams’ defense, saying he was “put here to change the people around him.”
“The Jeffery I know? The Jeffery I know gave me the clothes off his back,” he said.
Corey Jackson, a teenager Williams tutored, also rushed to support the rapper, saying that during their session, he’d frequently tell him to avoid crime and drugs.
“I told him, my YSL means Young Successful Life because that’s something that he has created,” Jackson told the judge.
According to Billboard, prosecutors are using Georgia’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, a law based on the more famous federal RICO statute used to target the mafia, drug cartels and other forms of organized crime, to come after Williams and his fellow alleged YSL members. Racketeering laws like these make it easier for prosecutors to go after members of an alleged criminal enterprise based on several individual actions.
One of the more serious accusations against Williams and YSL is the 2015 murder of Donovan “Big Nut” Thomas Jr., who allegedly ran a rival Atlanta gang. Five members of the gang have been charged with Thomas’ murder. Thug has been accused of renting the car used to commit the killing.
“The court is hearing the prosecutors say that Mr. Williams is in charge of a criminal street gang and by his word, people can die,” Steel told CNN affiliate WXIA. “And that’s just not true.”
Prosecutors used song lyrics, social media posts, hand signs, clothing and tattoos as evidence against Williams and other alleged YSL members.
They initially indicted Williams for conspiring to violate the RICO statute and participating in criminal street gang activity, Blavity previously reported. In August 2022, prosecutors added charges for gang activity as well as drug and firearm violations after executing a search warrant at the rapper’s home, Steel told WXIA, CNN reported.
Authorities charged Young Thug with eight of the 65 total counts listed.
A few defendants, including Marquavius Huey, Deamonte Kendrick, Quamarvious Nichols, Rodalius Ryan and Shannon Stillwell, are still facing trial. Others took plea deals for various charges before jury selection, including Gunna, who entered an Alford plea, which allows defendants to maintain their innocence while recognizing it’s in their best interest not to go to trial on a single alleged count of conspiring to violate the RICO law. He was sentenced to five years in prison, with one year commuted to time served and the remaining four years suspended.
Williams has a long road ahead of him. It took close to a year for a jury —composed of six Black women, two Black men, one White woman, one White man, one Hispanic woman and one other woman, WSB reported — to be selected, and it could take just as long, if not longer, for the trial to conclude. Many celebrities, including YFN Lucci, Lil Wayne and Killer Mike, may be called to testify.
If convicted on their RICO charge, they could receive a sentence of anywhere from five to 20 years behind bars, Billboard said.