Prosecutors accused Grammy-winning rapper Young Thug of leading a criminal street gang that committed murder and a slew of violent crimes in the Atlanta area over the past decade during opening statements of his racketeering trial Monday.
Fulton County Chief Deputy District Attorney Adriane Love said YSL – the acronym for Young Thug’s label, Young Stoner Life Records – in fact stands for Young Slime Life, an Atlanta-based criminal street gang led by the rapper and affiliated with the national Bloods gang.
“YSL operated as a pact,” she said, and Young Thug was “King Slime.” His home was allegedly filled with drugs and guns, and gang members would reach out for permission to kill and to provide him with stolen items, according to Love.
“They created a crater in the middle of Fulton County’s Cleveland Avenue community that sucked in the youth, the innocence and even the lives of some of its youngest members,” Love said.
Young Thug, whose given name is Jeffery Williams, is one of the music industry’s most innovative and influential hip-hop artists, pushing not just musical boundaries but often cultural ones too – including in his decision to wear a purple dress for the cover of his 2016 album, “Jeffery.”
He was charged last year alongside more than two dozen other people under the state’s expansive Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act – known as RICO. It’s the same law Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis used to indict former President Donald Trump and 18 co-defendants in August in connection with their alleged attempts to overturn the 2020 election.
Several defendants took plea deals last December – including rapper Gunna – while others were severed from the case. Young Thug is among six defendants who have pleaded not guilty to all charges and are standing trial in an Atlanta courtroom.
Young Thug’s defense attorney Brian Steel has said the rapper is innocent of all counts and has previously told CNN he “committed no crime whatsoever.”
The prosecution’s opening statements marked the start of what’s expected to be a monthslong trial that will be a test of the state’s expansive RICO law, prosecutors’ highly controversial decision to use rap lyrics as evidence and of Willis’ reputation ahead of Trump’s coming trial.
The first day of opening statements already saw several delays, prompted first by a juror issue and then by defense attorney complaints. Already, the trial has featured heated exchanges between prosecutors and Young Thug’s defense attorney, who made a motion for a mistrial that was denied by the judge.
Marquavius Huey, Deamonte Kendrick (known as Yak Gotti), Quamarvious Nichols, Rodalius Ryan and Shannon Stillwell are the other five defendants in the trial. Enter your email to sign up for CNN’s “Meanwhile in China” Newsletter.
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Stillwell’s attorney, Maxwell Schardt, delivered his opening statements Monday afternoon, saying his client was not guilty of the charges he’s facing, including murder.
Shortly after, court adjourned for the day. Attorneys for other defendants are expected to deliver additional opening statements starting Tuesday morning.