Young Thug's YSL lawsuit in Georgia put on hold by judge amid misconduct complaints

ATLANTA — The judge overseeing the criminal racketeering case against Young Thug has postponed the trial indefinitely until an outside judge can review petitions from the Atlanta rapper and others seeking to have the judge removed from the case after they allege Young Thug and prosecutors had an improper meeting with a key witness.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Ural Glanville made the surprise announcement as attorneys gathered for a private hearing to review a transcript of a June 10 meeting between the judge, prosecutors and Kenneth Copeland, a Young Thug associate and key witness in the gang conspiracy case.

Several defense attorneys have sought to have Glanville removed from overseeing the case, calling his meeting with a sworn witness “inappropriate” and accusing the judge and prosecutors of pressuring a key witness to testify – Glanville has rejected these motions.

Last month, Young Thug's lead attorney Bryan Steele was found guilty of criminal contempt and ordered to spend 20 weekends in jail after he questioned Glanville about the meeting and refused to reveal who told him about it — a sentence that was later suspended by the Georgia Supreme Court due to Steele's appeal.

On Monday, Glanville abruptly made the hearing public and announced from the bench that he planned to release the full transcript of the meeting with Copeland “so everybody has a chance to see it.” He then reversed his decision and announced he would send the motions to recuse the case to another judge to decide whether he should stay on the case.

“We’ll be on holiday until then,” Glanville announced.

The announcement surprised many, including prosecutors, who immediately raised concerns about the impact it would have on the jury in what has been the longest criminal trial in Georgia history, stretching 18 months and more. The jury has not heard testimony in the case since June 17 because of disputes over Copeland's testimony and evidentiary issues.

Simone Hylton, Fulton County deputy district attorney and the lead prosecutor in the case, asked, “Do we have a timeline of when a motion to rescind the case might be heard?”

“I don't know,” Glanville replied. “I have nothing to do with it.”

The dramatic development comes as the racketeering trial against Young Thug, whose real name is Jeffery Lamar Williams, has been slow to take off, with the case plagued by jury and witness problems and other daily turmoil that has beset the high-profile prosecution led by Fulton County District Attorney Fani T. Willis (D).

The Young Thug prosecution is one of two high-profile criminal racketeering cases being prosecuted by Willis' office. Last summer, the veteran prosecutor brought charges against former President Donald Trump and more than a dozen of his associates, alleging they formed a criminal conspiracy to try to overturn Trump's 2020 election defeat in Georgia.

The case is now at standstill as Trump and others appeal a judge's decision to allow Willis to continue prosecuting the case despite complaints that he had an inappropriate romantic relationship with the former lead prosecutor in the case.

Young Thug and 27 other associates were charged in May 2022 as part of a sweeping grand jury indictment that alleged the rapper and his associates were members of a violent criminal street gang in Atlanta.

Prosecutors have alleged that Young Thug was the leader of a gang called YSL, or Young Slime Life, and he has been charged with criminal racketeering and gang-related counts, while others have been charged with other violent crimes, including attempted murder and armed robbery.

Young Thug's lawyers have responded by claiming that YSL is merely a record label and have attacked prosecutors for introducing Young Thug's lyrics as evidence in the trial. They argue that his lyrics were merely artistic expressions, not literal descriptions of criminal acts.

Jury selection in the case began in January 2023 and took 10 months. Opening statements took place in late November – although proceedings were almost immediately halted after one of Young Thug's co-defendants was stabbed in jail and hospitalized. Proceedings resumed in January but were plagued by frequent delays, including frequent fights between lawyers and the judge.

Monday marked the 100th day of proceedings since opening statements, though jurors have heard testimony on only about half of those days. Prosecutors have so far reached less than half of their estimated witness list of more than 200 people.

Lawyers in the case have suggested the trial could last until 2025 or even beyond — though that was before the latest upheaval, which has raised questions about the future of the proceedings and how Glanville will retain control of the case.

Defense lawyers have repeatedly accused Glanville of bias, allegations that have intensified in recent weeks. In a June 17 filing, Steele accused Glanville of being an unofficial member of the prosecution team trying to convict his client.

At the same time, a lawyer for another co-defendant filed an emergency petition with the Georgia Supreme Court, asking it to halt the case and consider whether Glanville should be recused from the case — a request the high court declined to take up on procedural grounds, since it had not first been heard by a lower court.

“Glanville’s actions undermine public confidence in the independence, integrity, and impartiality of the judiciary,” Doug Weinstein, an attorney for rapper Yak Gotti, whose real name is Demonte Kendrick, wrote in the motion. “Glanville’s failure to follow the law lends a whiff of unfairness and bias to the current trial.”

Though it declined to hear the motion, the Georgia Supreme Court said in its ruling that if Weinstein filed his motion in Fulton County Superior Court, Glanville “would be disqualified from presiding over the case” and “a different judge would consider it.”

Weinstein refiled his plea late Friday in Fulton County, which was reassigned to a different judge.

It is unclear whether that was the reason for the events that took place Monday. From the bench, Glanville issued what he said would be a written order, outlining a timeline of events that led to the private meeting with Copeland. He cited several legal matters to argue he did nothing wrong.

“In this particular case, the court is of the view that, based on the decisional law, this was a proper ex parte meeting,” Glanville said.

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