Young Thug trial Atlanta: Defense asks Georgia Supreme Court to halt sprawling gang case

Deamonte Kendrick appears in court alongside defense attorney Doug Weinstein on Friday, July 21, 2023.  Weinstein is asking the Georgia Supreme Court to recuse the judge in the lengthy YSL trial. (Natrice Miller/

Deamonte Kendrick appears in court alongside defense attorney Doug Weinstein on Friday, July 21, 2023. Weinstein is asking the Georgia Supreme Court to recuse the judge in the lengthy YSL trial. (Natrice Miller/

Two defense lawyers in Young Thug’s lengthy gang and racketeering trial are asking the Georgia Supreme Court to halt proceedings until it is determined whether the judge should remain on the case.

Thursday’s motion by attorneys Doug Weinstein and Katie Hingerty comes after Chief Judge Ural Glanville denied multiple requests to halt the trial and recuse himself following a secret meeting he held in chambers with prosecutors and a state’s witness.

Judge Ural Glanville is shown in his courtroom during the hearing of the key witness Kenneth Copeland in the Atlanta rapper Young Thug trial at the Fulton County Courthouse on Monday, June 10, 2024, in Atlanta. 
(Miguel Martinez / AJC)

Credit: Miguel Martinez/AJC

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Credit: Miguel Martinez/AJC

The June 10 meeting outraged defense attorneys on the case, who called the judge’s conduct illegal and improper.

Weinstein and Hingerty, who represent Deamonte Kendrick, wrote in their emergency petition that there were “serious breaches” of Georgia’s Code of Judicial Conduct that violated their client’s constitutional rights.

Glanville denied three motions for his recusal and “has obstructed defense counsel’s attempts to have a disinterested party review the numerous allegations,” the filing said. It asks the high court to direct Glanville to assign the recusal motion to another judge and order him to produce an unredacted transcript of the private meeting.

“Citing a lack of evidentiary foundation, caused by Glanville’s own recalcitrance in refusing to provide a transcript of a secret, ex parte proceeding, Glanville has hindered defense counsel’s ability to effectively pursue relief by claiming judicial privilege,” they wrote.

They also said that “Glanville’s obstruction of (the) defendant’s right to a fair and impartial trial” has risen to a level that any attempt to resolve the matter in Fulton County Superior Court would be ineffective.

Weinstein noted that two writs previously filed in the case have been pending for more than a year.

Those writs sought the return of jewelry seized from Young Thug’s Atlanta home during his May 9, 2023 arrest. The jewelry didn’t belong to the rapper but had been loaned by a jeweler for the star’s live performances, attorneys said.

“Glanville’s court is where writs go to die,” Weinstein wrote in his latest motion, imploring the Georgia Supreme Court to intervene.

Defense attorneys have suggested that during the secret meeting, the judge and prosecutors pressured witness Kenneth Copeland to testify by threatening to hold him in jail indefinitely if he refused. Copeland, who goes by “Woody,” had spent the previous weekend behind bars after Glanville jailed him for not testifying. The Fulton County DA had granted Copeland immunity for his testimony.

“The immunity has been signed so you are required to testify. If you don’t testify, the state is probably going to ask me to jail you and I’m probably going to do that,” Glanville told Copeland after the witness indicated he would exercise his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination. (He did eventually testify, after a weekend behind bars).

When Young Thug’s attorney, Brian Steel, questioned the judge about the meeting, Glanville demanded to know how he found out about it. When Steel refused to divulge his source, Glanville held him in criminal contempt and sentenced the prominent defense attorney to 20 days in jail.

Waiting for the trial to conclude before beginning the appeals process could take years, the attorneys argued. Weinstein estimated that the trial, now in its 18th month, could last at least another year. It’s already the longest case in Georgia history.

“Emergency relief is requested because the witness that was coerced by Glanville is presently on the witness stand,” Weinstein wrote, saying the judge would “control the scope and substance” of any cross-examination by defense attorneys.

Attorney Chris Timmons, a former prosecutor who served as the head of the organized crime division in the DeKalb County DA’s office, estimates that he’s tried more racketeering cases than anyone in Georgia.

But he said even the most complex RICO cases shouldn’t take more than nine weeks to present to a jury.

“It seems like the case has gone off the rails and it may be time for a new judge to step in,” he said Friday. “I have no idea why this case is taking so long.”

If Glanville is instructed to step aside, Timmons said prosecutors would have to start the entire trial over. He said Glanville wasn’t wrong to threaten Copeland with jail time since the witness had agreed to testify in exchange for immunity. But Timmons said defense counsel had a right to be present for that ex parte meeting.

Once defense attorneys sought Glanville’s recusal, Timmons said he should have asked another judge to rule on the matter, “just to give the appearance of fairness and impartiality.”

Copeland, meanwhile, has become somewhat of an internet sensation among the thousands of people who tune in to watch the trial each day.

Kenneth Copeland reacts as he answers State prosecutors’ questions during a Fulton County Superior Court hearing on Monday, June 10, 2024. Copeland is a crucial witness in the state’s case against rapper Young Thug, charged with the RICO act.
(Miguel Martinez / AJC)

Credit: Miguel Martinez

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Credit: Miguel Martinez

His reluctant demeanor, funny expressions and roundabout way of answering the prosecution’s questions have become fodder for many in the comments section of the online livestream.

In recent days, Copeland has taken to social media to post pictures of himself floating around a swimming pool, another of him playing billiards and a humorous collage of various facial expressions he’s made on the stand over the last couple of weeks.

“How y’all feeling today? What’s your mood,” Copeland asked his 57,000 Instagram followers on Thursday, allowing them to choose between four screenshots of him making faces on the stand.

“Man you are one of my favorite people now,” one woman responded.

Others replied by quoting some of the outlandish things Copeland has said in court. That included the time he implied that a prosecutor smelled bad and asked her to move away from him.

Attorneys are due in court Monday at 9 a.m. to discuss possible redactions to Copeland’s interrogation videos, but the jury likely won’t return until the week of July 8, following the long Independence Day holiday weekend.