YSL trial set to start next week with 14 defendants, including Young Thug

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

Original indictment named 28 defendants

The number of defendants expected to go to trial next week in a sweeping Fulton County gang case has been reduced to 14. The original indictment named 28 defendants, but eight have taken plea deals and six others will be tried separately.

As of Thursday, there are four defendants — Jevon Fleetwood, Damekion Garlington, Demise McMullen and Javaris Bradford — who still don’t have attorneys. Two others, Justin Cobb and Jimmy Winfrey, have not been arrested.

Judge Ural Glanville said the six defendants would not be going to trial next week in the high-profile case against alleged YSL gang members. Instead, they will be tried at another time, he said.

“We’ve been attempting to get lawyers for them for several months,” Glanville said. “Those particular individuals, once they get attorneys, we’ll deal with them at some point in the future.”

Trontavious Stephens, 29, pleaded guilty Thursday to a single count of conspiracy to violate the state’s racketeer influenced and corrupt organizations (RICO) act. He was sentenced to 10 years, with two years commuted to time served and eight years of probation.

Stephens, also known as Tick, acknowledged he is one of the founders of YSL, or Young Slime Life. Walter Murphy and Atlanta rapper Young Thug, whose real name is Jeffery Williams, are accused of founding the alleged gang.

Fellow rappers Slimelife Shawty, Gunna, and Lil Duke took plea deals before Christmas, along with Murphy, Quantavious Grier and Antonio Sledge. Most have already been released from jail.

Sledge, 41, pleaded guilty Wednesday to conspiracy to violate the RICO act and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. He was sentenced to 15 years on probation.

As part of the guilty pleas, Sledge and Stephens agreed to testify truthfully if called upon to do so at trial, possess no guns, commit no criminal acts. Conditions for both also include a curfew from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. unless they are working, going to school or a medical emergency arises; and no contact with any of the co-defendants.

Sledge must also submit to random drug screenings. If he tests positive for any drug, he is to enter drug rehab within 30 days.

His guilty plea to the gun charge can be withdrawn if he meets the conditions of the deal after the trial. Sledge was previously convicted in 2018 on aggravated assault and participation of street gang activity charges, Deputy District Attorney Adriane Love said.

During a hearing Wednesday, Love read a series of “factual acknowledgements” made by Sledge as part of his deal.

Sledge acknowledged he has been a member or associated with YSL since 2012. He also acknowledged appearing in a music video with two co-defendants holding a gun he used in a drive-by shooting targeting a rival gang member.

As part of the plea deal, Sledge acknowledged he was told members of YSL met at the McDonald’s on Cleveland Avenue to discuss the murder of Donovan Thomas on Jan. 10, 2015. Thomas, who is believed to have been an associate of a rival gang, was shot and killed in a parking lot of McDaniel Street.

Investigators have said Thomas’ killing set off a yearslong feud between YSL and rival gang members that resulted in numerous shootings, some of which were fatal.

Co-defendants Bradford, Cobb, Deamonte Kendrick, Demise McMullen and Shannon Stillwell are all charged with murder in Thomas’ drive-by shooting.

During his plea hearing, Sledge acknowledged he personally knows one or more YSL associates killed Thomas on behalf of YSL and that he and other YSL associates gathered at Williams’ home. There, Sledge acknowledged, the award-winning musician gave him and other associates cash to “lay low.”

Sledge acknowledged that two gas stations on Cleveland Avenue are used by YSL associates to sell drugs and do not permit other gangs to operate.

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

Sledge’s attorney Derek Wright said Sledge has eight children, including five who are minors, and that his client wants to return to his family and put these charges behind him.

“He is very anxious to get back to his family. His outlook on this is some childish things done in the past have come to bite him and he has grown out of some of those childish things,” Wright said. “After this trial and all this is over, you will not see him again.”

He was released from jail Wednesday.

Two other defendants — Derontae Bebee and Tenquarius Mender — were offered plea deals but rejected them. Deputy District Attorney Simone Hylton said Bebee faces life in prison plus an additional 95 years if he’s convicted on all eight counts.

The state had offered him a 20-year sentence, with six to serve in prison and the remaining 14 years on probation, she said.

ExploreSixth defendant in YSL RICO indictment enters negotiated guilty plea

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

Prosecutors have argued that YSL is a gang and Young Thug is one of its leaders and founders. Defense attorneys say it’s a record label.

The courthouse is closed Friday and Monday for the New Year’s holiday. Jury selection is set to begin Jan. 4, with the trial set to start Jan. 9.