YSL case: 2 defendants denied bond while awaiting trial

Deputy District Attorney Simone Hylton argued Tuesday that two defendants charged in the sweeping YSL gang trial should remain behind bars until trial. File photo
Miguel Martinez /miguel.martinezjimenez@ajc.com

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Deputy District Attorney Simone Hylton argued Tuesday that two defendants charged in the sweeping YSL gang trial should remain behind bars until trial. File photo Miguel Martinez /miguel.martinezjimenez@ajc.com

Two men awaiting trial in the sprawling gang and racketeering case against Atlanta rapper Young Thug and others will remain behind bars for now, a judge ruled Tuesday.

State prosecutors successfully argued that both Javaris Bradford and Jimmy Winfrey were flight-risks who should remain in the Fulton County jail until their cases go before a jury.

The pair were among 28 people charged in a sweeping 65-count indictment that accuses Young Thug, whose real name is Jeffery Williams, of being the co-founder and leader of a criminal street gang. Williams is currently on trial along with five others in what has become the lengthiest criminal proceeding in state history.

The ongoing “Young Slime Life” trial has been marred by repeated delays, including a 10-month jury selection process, an attorney’s courthouse arrest, a deputy who was accused of having a romantic relationship with a former defendant and at least one jailhouse stabbing.

Bradford and Winfrey are among the defendants who have had their cases severed and are expected to be tried at a later date, prosecutors said.

The 2022 racketeering indictment alleges YSL is a Bloods-affiliated street gang formed along Cleveland Avenue. Prosecutors say the group is responsible for drug deals, a rash of robberies, drive-by shootings and the deaths of at least three people in Atlanta.

Young Thug, whose real name is Jeffery Williams, listens to Fulton County Chief Judge Ural Glanville as he tells the court his trial is on hold after one of the defendants was stabbed while in jail. (Steve Schaefer/steve.schaefer@ajc.com)

Credit: Steve Schaefer

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Credit: Steve Schaefer

Williams’ attorneys strongly deny the allegations. They contend the Grammy winner is innocent of all the charges against him and that YSL or “Young Stoner Life” is simply the name of his record label.

Bradford is charged with murder in the 2015 drive-by shooting of Donovan Thomas, who investigators say was a member of a rival gang. Officials say Thomas’ killing sparked years of gang warfare between the two groups, and that Young Thug rented the car used in the drive-by.

Winfrey, who once pleaded guilty to shooting up rapper Lil Wayne’s tour bus after an Atlanta concert, is charged with racketeering and participating in criminal street gang activity, along with a drug and weapons charge.

Prosecutor Simone Hylton noted that Winfrey wasn’t arrested until last July, more than a year after being charged in the 2022 gang indictment. The 34-year-old was taken into custody after trying to get into a Las Vegas casino using a fake ID, she said, arguing he avoided using his real name because he knew he was wanted.

“Given that Mr. Winfrey already fled, the state believes he will do so again,” Hylton told Fulton County Senior Judge Alford Dempsey.

Deputy District Attorney Simone Hylton asks questions during jury selection in the lengthy "Young Slime Life" gang trial on Monday, Feb. 6, 2023. Miguel Martinez / miguel.martinezjimenez@ajc.com

Credit: Miguel Martinez

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Credit: Miguel Martinez

She said guards at the Carroll County Correctional Institute once found marijuana in Winfrey’s cell during a previous prison sentence, and that Fulton County deputies discovered a “shank” in his cell following a jailhouse fight at the troubled facility.

Defense attorney Dennis Francis said his client has been in custody for nearly seven months on charges that would typically “get you probation in Fulton County.”

“It’s patently unfair to have to wait in Rice Street for two-plus years on these types of charges,” he said.

Bradford’s attorney, LaToya Williams, pointed out her client’s 2-year-old daughter in the courtroom and said he wouldn’t be a flight risk. She said he has close ties to the community and is considering coaching youth basketball.

Hylton said that when Bradford was wanted, he used a fake name to contact his girlfriend during her time in federal custody. The state said that was proof he didn’t want to be discovered.

In denying Bradford’s motion for bond, Judge Dempsey noted he is facing a life sentence on the murder charge and that “these are much different charges than he’s faced in the past.”