ATLANTA (AP) — Atlanta rapper Young Thug co-founded a violent street gang that carried out multiple murders, shootings and carjackings for about a decade and promoted its activities in songs and on social media, according to the prosecutors in a sprawling indictment that charges him, rapper Gunna and 26 others with racketeering.
The 88-page indictment filed Monday in Fulton County, Georgia cites lyrics from several music videos as evidence and accuses alleged gang members of committing violent crimes to raise money for the gang, promote its reputation and strengthen its power and territory.
“No matter how high profile you are, how famous you are, if you come to Fulton County, Georgia, and commit crimes, … you’re going to become a target and a focus of the district attorney’s office, and we are going to prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law,” Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis said Tuesday at a press conference announcing the charges.
Young Thug, whose first name is Jeffery Lamar Williams, co-wrote hit ‘This is America’ with Childish Gambino, making history by becoming the first hip-hop track to win Song of the Year Grammy in 2019. Fulton County prosecutors say that in late 2012, he and two others founded Young Slime Life, a violent criminal street gang commonly known as YSL and affiliated with the national Bloods gang.
He was arrested Monday at his home in Buckhead, an upscale neighborhood north of downtown Atlanta. He was being held in Fulton County Jail for conspiracy to violate Georgia’s RICO law and involvement in a criminal street gang.
Young Thug’s attorney, Brian Steel, told the media that “Mr. Williams has committed no crime” and he “would fight to the last drop of blood to clear it”.
Rapper Gunna, real name Sergio Kitchens, and aspiring rapper Christian Eppinger, who was already in jail and accused of shooting an Atlanta police officer six times in February, were also charged in the indictment. ‘charge. Gunna, who is charged with conspiracy to violate state RICO law, was not in custody Tuesday afternoon, Fulton County Sheriff Pat Labat said.
In addition to specific charges, the indictment includes an extensive list of 181 acts that prosecutors say were committed beginning in 2013 as part of RICO’s alleged conspiracy to further the interests of the gang.
In 2015, Williams rented an Infiniti sedan that five suspected gang members used when they shot and killed a rival gang member, according to the indictment.
Williams and Kitchens in 2017 had methamphetamine, hydrocodone and marijuana they intended to distribute and were involved in a traffic stop the following year in which one of the vehicles had numerous weapons with high-capacity magazines, including an AK-47, according to the indictment. .
He quotes lyrics from several of Williams’ music video appearances, including one from 2018 in which he says, “I never killed anyone but I have something to do with this body” and “I told them to shoot hundred strokes.”
Willis said she respects the First Amendment’s right to free speech, but she believes the song lyrics cited in the indictment are “overt and predicate acts” that support the RICO charge.
“The First Amendment doesn’t protect people from prosecutors using it as evidence if they do,” she said.
The indictment also charges members of the gang with attempting to kill rapper YFN Lucci, whose first name is Rayshawn Bennett, by “stabbing and stabbing him” with a shank in Fulton County Jail. YFN Lucci was among a dozen people charged in another gang-related RICO indictment in Fulton County a year ago.
The indictment also says it was an alleged gang member who shot a bus in 2015 carrying rapper Lil Wayne.
Willis said she plans to seek the maximum possible sentences for those charged in the indictment. For at least some of them, that could mean life in prison.
With his high-pitched, scratchy rap voice, Young Thug became best known for hits such as “Stoner” and “Best Friend.” In a hyper-masculine hip-hop scene, Thug refused to play by traditional genre rules. He wore a dress on the cover of his 2016 “Jeffery” mixtape and said there was no gender as part of a Calvin Klein campaign.
Gunna, who is signed to Thug’s Young Stoner Life label, scored his second No. 1 on the Billboard 200 album chart with “DS4Ever” this year. The Grammy-nominated artist is known for propelling the viral slogan “Pushin P”, a term used regularly on social media by athletes such as LeBron James and Dez Bryant, as well as professional sports teams such as the Cardinals. Arizona, Denver Nuggets and Toronto Raptors. . The rapper said the term is based on “keeping it real”.
In April 2021, Young Thug and Gunna posted bail for 30 low-level inmates who were unable to pay the fees themselves. Gunna opened a toll-free grocery store and clothing store at his old college for students and their families in the area where he grew up.
Young Thug’s label refers to its artists as part of the “Slime Family”, and a compilation album titled “Slime Language 2” reached No. 1 on the charts in April 2021.
Associated Press writer Sudhin Thanawala and Jonathan Landrum Jr. in Los Angeles contributed to this report.
The spelling of Young Thug’s first name has been corrected to Jeffery Lamar Williams.