Gunna pleaded guilty Wednesday (Dec. 14) in the closely-watched criminal case against Young Thug and other alleged members of an Atlanta gang, ending his involvement in the sprawling case and securing his release from jail — though the rapper stressed that he was not cooperating with prosecutors.
In a statement released by his lawyer Steve Sadow, Gunna (real name Sergio Kitchens) said he had taken a so-called Alford plea — a maneuver that allows a defendant to enter a formal admission of guilt while still maintaining their innocence — “to end my personal ordeal.”
In technical terms, the rapper pleaded guilty Wednesday to a single charge against him and was sentenced to five years in prison, but was released because he was credited with one year of time served and the rest of the sentence was suspended. Fulton County jail records confirm Gunna was released later on Wednesday.
Despite the plea deal, Gunna stressed that he had not agreed to work with prosecutors in any way to convict Young Thug or any of the other defendants.
“While I have agreed to always be truthful, I want to make it perfectly clear that I have NOT made any statements, have NOT been interviewed, have NOT cooperated, have NOT agreed to testify or be a witness for or against any party in the case and have absolutely NO intention of being involved in the trial process in any way,” the rapper wrote.
In footage of Wednesday’s plea hearing broadcast by local television station WSB-TV, Gunna acknowledged that if called by any party in the case, he would be required to testify “truthfully,” but could still exercise his Fifth Amendment right to avoid incriminating himself.
He also acknowledged during the hearing that YSL was both “a music label and a gang,” and that he had “personal knowledge that members or associates of YSL have committed crimes and in furtherance of the gang.”
“I recognize, acknowledge and deeply regret that my talent and music indirectly furthered YSL the gang to the detriment of my community,” the rapper wrote in a statement read aloud by prosecutors. “YSL as a gang must end.”
A spokesman for the Fulton County District Attorney’s office, which is prosecuting the case, did not immediately return a request for comment.
Both Young Thug (Jeffery Williams) and Gunna were indicted in May, along with dozens of others, on accusations that their group YSL was not really a record label called “Young Stoner Life,” but a violent Atlanta street gang called “Young Slime Life.” The charges include allegations of murder, carjacking, armed robbery, drug dealing and illegal firearm possession over the past decade.
Young Thug and many others are set to stand trial on those charges in January.
In Wednesday’s statement, Gunna said he was “acknowledging my association with YSL,” but that he had never seen the group as a criminal enterprise.
“When I became affiliated with YSL in 2016, I did not consider it a ‘gang’; more like a group of people from metro Atlanta who had common interests and artistic aspirations,” Gunna wrote. “My focus of YSL was entertainment – rap artists who wrote and performed music that exaggerated and ‘glorified’ urban life in the Black community.”
“I love and cherish my association with YSL music, and always will,” he wrote. “I look at this as an opportunity to give back to my community and educate young men and women that ‘gangs’ and violence only lead to destruction.”
The case against YSL is built around Georgia’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, a state 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 (in this case, 28 total) based on many smaller acts that aren’t directly related.
Beyond indicting two of rap’s biggest stars, the YSL RICO case has also has made waves because it cites their lyrics as supposed evidence of their crimes — a controversial practice that critics say unfairly sways juries and injects racial bias into the courtroom. California recently banned the tactic in that state, but Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis has strongly defended using it against Young Thug and Gunna.
Ahead of Wednesday’s plea deal, Gunna had repeatedly been denied release on bond, largely because prosecutors have warned that he might threaten witnesses or otherwise obstruct the case. Young Thug has similarly been refused release, meaning he will await his trial from a jail cell.