YSL trial: Lawyer who complained about pay should be replaced, council says

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

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

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)

The Georgia Public Defender Council is asking the judge presiding over the “Young Slime Life” gang case to replace an attorney who recently complained about her “egregiously low” wages in the lengthy trial.

In motions filed Wednesday, the GPDC’s chief legal officer said it would be in the best interest of defendant Rodalius Ryan for another lawyer to represent him going forward.

Ryan’s attorney, Angela D’Williams, asked to withdraw from the case last week, saying she is being paid a paltry $15,000 for what amounts to more than a year’s work.

She is one of four contract attorneys in the Fulton County case who initially agreed to defend their respective clients for $7,500. That sum was later doubled given the amount of time the trial is expected to take, but all four attorneys are requesting more.

In the filings, the GPDC’s chief legal officer, Natalie Glaser, said she was sent a screenshot of a text message D’Williams sent her colleagues on April 12. In the text, D’Williams said she doesn’t actually want to withdraw from the case, but hopes her request will force the public defender’s office to pay her more.

“Just in case I didn’t tell you, I filed my motion to withdraw as a way to force GPDC to pay me more money,” D’Williams wrote in the 19-person group chat. “Please do not help the judge grant my motion. The goal is to have the judge deny my motion, and perhaps have the director come in and testify she’s not paying me more. If the press asks, please do not say you hope the judge grants my motion. I just wanted to bring attention to the issue of GPDC being shady.”

The agency called the attorney’s behavior “egregious” and said the text message was proof she isn’t acting in her client’s best interest. Glaser also said D’Williams may have violated several rules of professional conduct by creating prejudicial trial publicity, not being candid with court and “advancing an unmeritorious argument in bad faith.”

“Her willingness to file frivolous motions for her own gain puts the council on notice that that the client potentially isn’t receiving the constitutionally competent representation that GPDC is statutorily obligated to provide,” Glaser wrote.

D’Williams told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that her motion was genuine and that she was simply using the tools available to her.

“I believe that I should be advocating for conflict attorneys and public defenders to earn more money when it comes to RICO,” she said. “It’s a very complex case and $15,000 for a yearlong trial is just not adequate.”

In December, Ryan asked that his attorney be removed from the case, saying she “didn’t want” to represent him. He was later urged not to fire D’Williams, and she stayed on as his lawyer.

A second motion filed Wednesday asks Chief Judge Ural Glanville to quash a subpoena requesting GPDC’s Executive Director Omotayo Alli to appear in court. It calls the subpoena “unreasonable and oppressive” and said it was filed with “an alternate agenda to gain attention in the press, force the director to testify and force additional payment from GPDC.”

In March, D’Williams and the three other contract defenders on the high-profile case submitted a letter requesting a one-time payment of $32,260 and an additional $15,000 a month going forward, according to court filings. The request cited a massive workload in which all their free time was spent working on the case. The attorneys also complained about having to pay $20 a day to park in the nearest deck. They were told the GPDC could not pay them more at the time, but that the agency would continue to seek additional funding from Fulton County.