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Gunna Denied Release From Jail Once Again, Despite Protests From Lawyers

His attorneys say the rapper's been kept in jail on shoddy evidence, but a judge was again swayed by claims from prosecutors about witness intimidation.

An Atlanta judge on Thursday once again refused to release Gunna from jail ahead of his January trial on gang-related charges, after prosecutors claimed that a co-defendant offered to “whack someone” on the rapper’s behalf.

Following his arrest in May as part of a sweeping indictment of alleged Atlanta gang members, Gunna (real name Sergio Kitchens) had already twice been refused pre-trial release on bond – both times because Fulton County prosecutors claimed that it might lead to witness intimidation.

On Thursday, Judge Ural Glanville did so for a third time and for the same reason, despite protests from Gunna’s lawyers that there’s not “a shred of evidence” to support keeping him locked up before he has been proven guilty.

“I still have the same concerns that have not been otherwise alleviated,” the judge said, referring to fears of witness intimidation.

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At the hearing, prosecutors claimed a co-defendant said he would be willing to “whack” someone on Gunna’s behalf. Steven Sadow, Gunna’s lawyer, argued back that such unverified “proffers” from the government had repeatedly been disproven, and that Judge Glanville ought to be very “skeptical” about believing them.

But the judge was unswayed by Sadow’s arguments, denying bond once more. The order was met with vocal outcry from Gunna’s supporters in the courtroom, prompting Judge Glanville to threaten to arrest them if they did not “settle down.”

The order means Gunna will remain in jail until trial, which is currently scheduled for early January.

“Although we must respect the court’s ruling, we know it is wrong,” Sadow said in a statement after the ruling. “Gunna is innocent of the charge against him and should not be in jail pending trial. The prosecution has produced no evidence that supports or justifies the denial of bond. Keeping Gunna detained is a miscarriage justice and fundamentally unfair.”

Along with frequent collaborator Young Thug and dozens of others, Gunna was indicted in May on accusations that their group YSL was not really a record label called “Young Stoner Life” but a violent street gang called “Young Slime Life.” The charges included allegations of murder, carjacking, armed robbery, drug dealing and illegal firearm possession over the past decade.

The case 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 based on many smaller acts that aren’t directly related.

Beyond indicting two of rap’s biggest stars, the case also made waves because it cited 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.

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At a hearing in May, the judge overseeing the case refused to release Gunna on bond – seemingly swayed by arguments from prosecutors that Young Thug and Gunna were the ones “directing the violence” and would be able to intimidate witnesses if released ahead of trial. At a second hearing in July, the same judge once again refused to grant bond over similar concerns.

Young Thug has also repeatedly been denied bond on similar grounds and is also awaiting a January trial from jail, though he faces far more counts and more serious charges than Gunna.

Last month, Gunna lawyers again demanded his freedom, saying he’d been “languishing in jail nearly five months” without justification. They said prosecutors had promised to supply more evidence to support their proffers about witness intimidation, but had failed to provide a “single instance” in which Gunna had threatened anyone.

“Detaining Kitchens on the basis that ‘the state will file a notice [supposedly with reasons for detaining him]’ sometime in the future makes a mockery of the due process clause,” the star’s lawyers wrote. “The court may not detain someone on the basis the prosecution is developing its case and will present the evidence at some future undetermined time.”

But at Thursday’s hearing, prosecutor Adriane Love argued there had been “no change in circumstances” from Gunna’s previous bids to bond that would warrant release. She repeatedly cited the supposed statement by the co-defendant, who allegedly said: “I will still wack someone for you.” 

After Sadow said he’d seen no actual evidence to support that claim, Judge Glanville challenged Love about whether prosecutors had turned over any evidence. Love said they believed they had already turned over the “phone extraction” but that it would be uploaded into evidence by the end of the day if they hadn’t. She refused to publicly disclose the name of the defendant who made the claim.

That was enough for Judge Glanville, who said he might reconsider the issue for a fourth time but would keep Gunna in jail for the time being. Sadow immediately complained that he is concerned he can’t do anything to disprove allegations that later turn out to be false, but Judge Glanville said he believed prosecutors to be making statements they deemed true because “any attorney worth his salt” would not simply be making false claims about evidence.