YSL trial: ‘Utter chaos’ leads to more delays

Attorneys’ bags being searched outside courtroom
Fulton County Chief Judge Ural Glanville points during the Jury selection portion of the trial that continues on Monday, Feb 13, 2023.  Miguel Martinez / miguel.martinezjimenez@ajc.com

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Fulton County Chief Judge Ural Glanville points during the Jury selection portion of the trial that continues on Monday, Feb 13, 2023. Miguel Martinez / miguel.martinezjimenez@ajc.com

Court proceedings in the sweeping “Young Slime Life” gang case were delayed yet again Wednesday when Fulton County deputies grabbed one of the 14 defendants set to stand trial and pulled him into a back room.

Moments later, a series of blood-curdling screams could be heard as defense attorneys and Rodalius Ryan’s co-defendants scrambled to find out what was happening.

The chaos led deputies to close the courtroom for more than an hour after they instructed attorneys and members of the press to wait outside over “security concerns.”

A sheriff’s office spokeswoman said Thursday that Ryan was suspected of having marijuana in court, and that deputies found some on his person. The struggle in the back room happened because he apparently did want not to be searched, the agency said.

The incident was the latest delay in an already lengthy process marred by contraband being brought into court, deputies scuffling with defendants and attorneys being threatened with contempt. Jury selection in the high-profile case against Atlanta rapper Young Thug and his alleged associates began Jan. 4. Nearly four months later, not a single person has been seated.

Angela D’Williams, the attorney representing Ryan, was in tears as her colleagues tried to console her on a hallway bench during the break in proceedings.

She told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution she still doesn’t know why Ryan, who is relatively small in stature, was met with such force by what she called “an overwhelming number of deputies.”

Ryan also was involved in a scuffle with deputies in January.

“It’s just a helpless feeling to see this happening and know you can’t do anything about it,” said D’Williams, who described Wednesday’s scene as “utter chaos.”

She is one of four contract defenders being paid $15,000 to handle their clients’ case, which was initially expected to last six to nine months. At this rate, however, some attorneys say they don’t foresee opening statements getting underway until late summer, which means the trial could stretch into next year.

Everyone was eventually allowed back into the courtroom, including Ryan, though court adjourned for the day a short time later. D’Williams said deputies allegedly finding marijuana on her client was news to her since no one said anything.

“They didn’t tell us anything when we were back in the courtroom,” she said. If deputies suspected Ryan had contraband, D’Williams said they could have addressed that earlier in the day or handled the situation in a less disruptive manner.

Security was noticeably tighter ahead of Wednesday’s scheduled motions hearings, with a sheriff’s office captain instructing her deputies to “search every bag and envelope” outside the first-floor courtroom. The searches included both defense attorneys and prosecutors.

Several defense attorneys objected to the new security protocols, telling deputies they never had their belongings searched in all their years of practicing law.

Defense attorney Suri Chadha Jimenez called the enhanced security measures “absolutely ridiculous.”

“We are officers of the court. We went through the same security everyone goes through to get in the building and there is absolutely no reason for us to get a secondary inspection where they stick fingers wherever they want,” he told the AJC.

He also noted the agency searching the attorneys’ bags is responsible for ensuring safety and security at the county jail, where contraband including drugs and cellphones have occasionally turned up. An inmate died in the jail’s psychiatric wing last year, his body found covered in bed bugs. State and federal investigators are looking into the case, which has attracted international attention.

“Maybe if they put this much effort into the safety and security of the inmates people wouldn’t die by bedbugs,” Jimenez said.

Court proceedings are set to resume Thursday morning.