Attorneys for Gunna are sharply criticizing Atlanta prosecutors for using the rapper’s lyrics as evidence against him, calling it “intensely problematic” and warning that it could lead to criminal charges against “any artist with a song referencing violence.”
Gunna, whose real name is Sergio Kitchens, was charged in Monday’s sweeping indictment against Young Thug and dozens of other alleged members of the gang Young Slime Life. They stand accused of violating the state’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act by running a gang that wrought “havoc” on Atlanta for a decade.
Like the charges against Young Thug, the allegations against Gunna were filled with references to his music – like the line “watch me whack that bitch, pop em like a cyst, Glock with the assist.” Prosecutors say such statements were “an overt act” that contributed to the overall RICO conspiracy.
But in a motion filed Wednesday seeking to have Gunna released from jail ahead of trial, his attorneys blasted the Atlanta DA for including such lyrics in the charges, saying they were “not part of a RICO conspiracy but are entertainment.”
“It is intensely problematic that the State relies on song lyrics as part of its allegations,” his attorneys from the law firm Garland Samuel & Loeb PC wrote in their filing. “These lyrics are an artist’s creative expression and not a literal recounting of facts and circumstances. Under the State’s theory, any artist with a song referencing violence could find herself the victim of a RICO indictment.”
Gunna’s attorneys are not alone in such criticism. The use of rap lyrics as criminal evidence has become increasingly controversial in recent years, over concerns that the tactic threatens free speech and unfairly sways juries. Though courts have largely upheld the use of music in the courtroom, a proposed law in New York championed by Jay-Z and Meek Mill would sharply limit the practice in that state.
Beyond pushing back on the use of lyrics, Gunna’s attorneys also argued Wednesday that he should be released because the single charge against him was “so thin as to be transparent.”
“There is no allegation that he committed any act of violence. There is no allegation that he ever sold any drugs,” Gunna’s lawyers wrote. “The few ‘overt acts’ in the indictment that mention Mr. Kitchens mostly describe non-criminal conduct such as quoting song lyrics.”
A bond hearing for Gunna has not yet been set, and it could be days or even weeks before a judge decides whether to release him. A hearing has also not yet been set for Young Thug, but a judge denied him release Wednesday in a separate case over drugs and guns found at his house.