Atlanta rapper Gunna denied bond for third time

Prosecutors raise more concerns about witness intimidation
Gunna, whose real name is Sergio Kitchens, is one of 28 people charged in a sweeping Fulton County gang indictment.

Credit: Contributed

Credit: Contributed

Gunna, whose real name is Sergio Kitchens, is one of 28 people charged in a sweeping Fulton County gang indictment.

Popular rapper Gunna was denied bond for a third time Thursday after prosecutors suggested a co-defendant had offered to “whack someone” on his behalf.

Attorneys for the musician asked for proof, calling the state’s case weak and saying their client should be allowed to await trial at home.

The rapper, whose real name is Sergio Kitchens, has been in custody since his May arrest. But with prosecutors seeking to delay the gang and racketeering trial until late March, it could be months before any evidence is actually presented, attorney Don Samuel told the judge.

Gunna and fellow musician Young Thug were among 28 people charged this year in a sweeping Fulton County gang indictment. Prosecutors accuse the pair of being the leaders of a criminal street gang responsible for much of Atlanta’s crime. Attorneys for the two rappers strongly contest the charges, arguing in hearings and court filings that YSL is simply a record label, not a violent gang.

Gunna (left) and Young Thug

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District Attorney Fani Willis has also defended her decision to use lyrics as evidence in the sprawling indictment, saying “If you decide to admit your crimes over a beat, I’m going to use it.”

Last month, California Gov. Gavin Newsome signed a bill into law restricting the use of rap lyrics as evidence in court proceedings.

U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson introduced similar legislation at the federal level. He recently partnered with U.S. Rep. Jamaal Bowman, a fellow Democrat representing New York’s 16th district, to write a bill limiting an artists’ lyrics or expressions from being used against them in federal cases.

On Thursday, prosecutor Adriane Love told Judge Ural Glanville that one of the men charged in the YSL indictment had offered to kill someone on Gunna’s behalf. She also said several of the state’s witnesses are so afraid of retaliation they “break down and cry” when thinking about testifying.

“We have evidence that there are members of this organization who have conveyed their willingness to ‘whack’ or kill a person for the defendant,” Love said at Kitchens’ bond hearing.

She refused to publicly name the person who allegedly made the offer.

Kitchens’ attorneys asked for proof and suggested the judge might be too reliant on the word of prosecutors when considering bond.

“Once again, it’s vague information, all by virtue of proffer,” Samuel told Glanville. “This is what has happened now in three different hearings ... At some point we’re asking you to demand of the prosecution, ‘what is the evidence to hold this man in jail without bond?’”

Defense attorney Steve Sadow said Kitchens doesn’t pose a risk and argued there’s no reason to keep him locked up until next year’s trial.

Glanville ultimately sided with state and denied bond for Kitchens, just as he has for every other defendant charged in the case. His decision elicited a chorus of groans from about a dozen of the musician’s supporters as they stood up to leave.

“If you remain in this courtroom and make any outbursts I’ll have you arrested,” the judge warned them from the bench.

Several defendants have asked to have their cases severed, but Willis wrote in a recent motion that she believes everyone should be tried together.

“Because all 25 defendants currently in custody were alleged to have participated in the same conspiracy, that is: the YSL criminal street gang, they should be tried together,” the DA wrote.

Additional motions hearings are scheduled for next month, and Glanville is expected to decide whether to postpone the trial until March. It is currently set to begin Jan. 9.