YSL trial could last until Super Bowl 2025, lawyer fears

Appointed attorney seeks once again to exit over low pay
Rodalius Ryan appears in court alongside his attorney attorney Angela D’Williams for the YSL trial at Fulton County Courthouse on Friday, July 21, 2023. (Natrice Miller/natrice.miller@ajc.com)

Rodalius Ryan appears in court alongside his attorney attorney Angela D’Williams for the YSL trial at Fulton County Courthouse on Friday, July 21, 2023. (Natrice Miller/natrice.miller@ajc.com)

Jury selection began in January 2023, opening statements in late November and months later, prosecutors have gotten through only a fraction of the 400 or so witnesses they expect to call in the sprawling gang trial of rapper Young Thug and several other defendants.

At this rate, the trial could last until next year’s Super Bowl, said attorney Brian Steel, who represents the artist.

The slow pace and low pay has attorney Angela D’Williams seeking for the second time to exit the case. She said she’s had to give up the Duluth office she was leasing and is unable to take on new clients.

“I thought this case would’ve been over by now,” said D’Williams, who represents Rodalius Ryan. “Nobody wants to hire an attorney who’s been in trial for a year.”

The trial is on a break until Tuesday.

D’Williams and other appointed attorneys, whose clients’ cases have since been severed, last year sought additional pay from the Georgia Public Defender Council. At the time, they were being paid $15,000 for the duration of the trial.

“To be honest, I could make more money working at Chick-fil-A as a cashier,” defense attorney Justin Hill said then.

The GPDC agreed to pay the attorneys $5,000 a month, but capped their pay at $55,000 for the entirety of the trial, said D’Williams, who was appointed to the case in October 2022.

D’Williams, a sole practitioner, said she appreciated the bump in pay but now it’s gone and she’s struggling to make ends meet.

“I am not able to take on new clients because I am either in court for this trial, or outside of court working on this case, the majority of my time,” she wrote. “As such, I am not able to earn a livable wage.”

Her client is already serving life in prison for the 2019 murder of Jamari Holmes, a case unrelated to the current trial.

Angela D’Williams, an attorney for Rodalius Ryan, speaks at a hearing for the YSL case in Atlanta on Thursday, December 22, 2022.   (Arvin Temkar / arvin.temkar@ajc.com)

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

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Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

A response from GPDC’s chief legal officer said the agency cannot accommodate another pay increase but could arrange to have another attorney substitute into the case.

“GPDC has worked to accommodate the unusual circumstance of this trial by first doubling our traditional pay and then, subsequently, asking the Council to create a new policy surrounding the treatment of trials that last for an extended period of time (over 15 consecutive business days),” Natalie Glaser wrote in an email attached to D’Williams’ motion to withdraw.

Atlanta rapper Young Thug sits next to his defense attorney Brian Steel during jury selection in the “Young Slime Life” gang case at the Fulton County Courthouse Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2023. (Steve Schaefer/steve.schaefer@ajc.com)  (Steve Schaefer/steve.schaefer@ajc.com)

Credit: Steve Schaefer

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Credit: Steve Schaefer

The jurors selected for the YSL trial are either retired, not working or have jobs that will continue to pay their wages regardless of how long the case lasts. But one juror on Thursday asked if Judge Ural Glanville could refrain from announcing upcoming off-days, saying some people have been contacted by their employers.

Glanville said he’s trying to be “forthright” with his court schedule, but offered to call the jurors’ bosses if they need him to.

A hearing on D’Williams’ request to withdraw as Ryan’s attorney has been scheduled for 9 a.m. Feb. 16.