A Georgia judge on Monday refused to release Gunna and Young Thug from jail following their indictment in a sweeping criminal case against alleged Atlanta gang members, denying pre-trial release to Gunna while deferring a decision on Young Thug.
At a hearing in Fulton County Superior Court on Monday morning, Judge Ural Glanville denied bond to Gunna (real name Sergio Kitchens) and set a trial date for January 2023. The judge offered little detail on his rationale, but was clearly swayed by arguments from prosecutors, who said they were worried about witness intimidation if the rapper was released on bond.
“They are the ones directing the violence,” argued one prosecutor from the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office, referring to both Young Thug and Gunna. “They direct their troops.”
In a statement, Gunna’s attorney Steven Sadow told Billboard: “The court was obviously concerned about threats and intimidation of witnesses. We believe when the court hears evidence, not just the words of the prosecutor, it will find that Sergio’s release on bond will not, directly or indirectly, pose a significant risk to witnesses. We look forward to having an evidentiary hearing on this as soon as the court permits.”
Judge Glanville did not rule on whether Young Thug (real name Jeffery Williams) should be released on bond. Instead, the judge delayed the proceedings so that he could first rule on claims from prosecutors that the rapper’s attorney, Brian Steel, should be disqualified from the case over a conflict of interest. That issue will be litigated in the weeks ahead, and then the judge will deal with the question of bond and pre-trial release.
The hearing came two weeks after prosecutors unveiled an 88-page indictment against dozens of members of Young Slime Life, claiming the group is not a musical operation but actually a violent street gang that wrought “havoc” in Atlanta over the past decade. The charges included allegations of murder, carjacking, armed robbery, drug dealing and illegal firearm possession.
Among other accusations, prosecutors say Young Thug rented a car that was used in the 2015 drive-by shooting that killed 26-year-old Donovan Thomas, and that YSL members sought his permission before they attempted to murder rival rapper YFN Lucci in prison. Additional charges against Young Thug were later tacked on based on items found when he was arrested, including possession of illegal guns.
The case is built around Georgia’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, a law based on the more famous federal RICO statute that’s been used to target the mafia, drug cartels and other forms of organized crime. Such laws make it easier for prosecutors to sweep up many members of an alleged criminal conspiracy based on many smaller acts that aren’t directly related.
Ahead of Monday’s hearing, Young Thug’s lawyers argued that he was “innocent” and clearly deserving of pre-trial release from what they described as “dungeon-like conditions” in jail. Gunna’s lawyers, meanwhile, said the single RICO charge against him was “so thin as to be transparent.”
But at the hearing, prosecutors told Judge Glanville that Gunna was “not just an associate” in YSL but “in a position of command” over the alleged gang – and that his release would therefore raise real concerns about the potential for witness tampering against those who might testify in the looming trial.
The rapper’s attorneys offered to submit him to onerous conditions if he was released from jail, like paying himself for all of his phone calls to be monitored. Sadow told Judge Ural that Gunna had no intention to do anything wrong and simply “intends to do music and continue on with his career” if he was released.
But the judge was unswayed. He said he would allow Gunna’s attorneys to file a renewed motion for bond at some point in the future, but refused to grant it on Monday. He also set a trial date for Jan. 9, 2023, but such dates are tentative and are often pushed back.
Following Monday’s hearing, the timeline for Young Thug’s case remains unclear because the judge offered little detail for when he would revisit pre-trial release. Complicating matters further, Young Thug has already been denied bond on separate charges tacked onto the larger RICO case, stemming from illegal guns and drugs allegedly found in his home when he was arrested. That decision means it’s unclear if he would be released even if Judge Ural eventually grants bond in the bigger case.
An attorney for Young Thug did not immediately return a request for comment on Monday. A spokesman for the Fulton County DA’s offices also did not immediately return a request for comment.