OPINION: The amnesia outbreak at Young Thug’s Forever Trial in Atlanta

Atlanta rapper Young Thug speaks with defense attorney Brian Steel during his ongoing gang and racketeering trial at Fulton County Courthouse on Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2024. (Natrice Miller/ Natrice.miller@ajc.com)

Credit: Natrice Miller/AJC

Credit: Natrice Miller/AJC

Atlanta rapper Young Thug speaks with defense attorney Brian Steel during his ongoing gang and racketeering trial at Fulton County Courthouse on Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2024. (Natrice Miller/ Natrice.miller@ajc.com)

If anyone was playing a drinking game and had to take a sip every time witness Deangelo White said “I dunno” or “That got nuthin’ to do with me,” they’d be drunk within 14 minutes.

It was Day 57 in testimony in the state RICO case against rapper Young Thug and his alleged associates, and it was progressing as it has for months. Like World War I trench warfare.

White was an especially ornery and recalcitrant witness for the prosecution. The convicted violent criminal would rather have been anywhere else than this Fulton County courtroom. In fact, he even said he’d rather be in his prison cell, where he’s serving 10 years on charges of armed robbery, aggravated assault and carjacking.

“I’m just here freewheelin’ it on a free ride trip because you brought me up here,” White shot back at prosecutor Christian Adkins. The prosecutor continually asked about a 2015 shooting where an alleged compadre in a car with White was shot in the head.

The shooting was one of 191 overt acts being used to prove a criminal conspiracy against members of YSL, the gang allegedly headed by Jeffery Williams, or Young Thug. Two YSL members were convicted of the shooting. Prosecutors were trying to remind their obstinate witness of statements he made to investigators almost a decade ago.

But White was giving up nothing. He didn’t want to be a snitch, even if he did speak to cops long ago. The prosecutor even tried to appeal to him as being a victim in the 2015 shooting.

“How was I a victim? I didn’t get shot. I didn’t get hurt,” he said. “I didn’t get shot in the head, someone else did. It was not me. My head look all right.”

He swore frequently and burped loudly into the microphone more than once to show his disdain for the process.

Jeffery Williams, AKA the rapper Young Thug, sneaks a bite during testimony Wednesday in the long-running RICO trial.

Credit: Court video screen grab

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Credit: Court video screen grab

And so it goes in the the Young Thug Forever Trial. Jury selection began in January of last year and opening statements didn’t begin until after Thanksgiving. Since then there have been constant motions and other delays eating up time when actual testimony can occur. And often those days are short.

And once they do testify, it’s often a dumpster fire. One such witness was an alleged YSL member named Adrian Bean. The state alleges that in 2013, he was a getaway driver in a car that Young Thug may, or may not, have been in.

Except there’s a problem, Bean suffers from the same amnesia that afflicts many young men from the Cleveland Avenue neighborhood who’ve been called to court.

“I keep telling you I don’t remember 2013,” said Bean, who claims he was almost always whacked out on drugs. He later did a prison stint and says he’s straightened out his life. “I got a lot behind me. I put this all behind me. I’m just moving on.”

At one point, Bean accused prosecutors of “trying to assassinate me,” before turning to Judge Ural Glanville and saying, “Am I on trial, your honor?”

His testimony ate up most of March. Yes, most of March.

The growing frustration caused attorney Doug Weinstein, who represents Deamonte Kendrick (AKA the rapper Yak Gotti), to file a motion saying the judge needs to rein in the endless witnesses or the trial could last until 2027.

I think the counselor put that date in for shock value but there are many involved who believe the trial, said to already be the longest criminal trial in Georgia history, might go into 2025. The prosecution originally had 700 witnesses. Then they culled it to 400. Now, it’s about 200. They were on witness #59 this week.

Fulton County Chief Judge Ural Glanville speaks during the ongoing "Young Slime Life" gang and racketeering trial on Monday, Dec 4, 2023. (Miguel Martinez/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution/TNS)

Credit: TNS

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Credit: TNS

The next witness Wednesday after Know-Nothing White was Walter Murphy, a childhood friend of Young Thug and co-founder of YSL, which he claimed was then a “group,” not a gang.

Murphy, known as DK, spent seven years in prison for being one of the gunmen in the 2015 shooting that White would say nothing about. He was also indicted in the RICO case in 2022 but released after seven months in jail after pleading guilty and admitting that YSL was a gang.

Murphy is a 32-year-old father of four and now works in a plant manufacturing doors and windows. He grew up in the Gilbert Gardens housing project in Southeast Atlanta and once was part of Young Thug’s music crew.

He calls him Lil Jeff. He also lived a violent past.

When a prosecutor asked about 2012 and how he got by financially, he responded, “The streets. By any means in the streets. I didn’t have a job. I had to take it. I was the oldest man in my mother’s house.”

What did he mean by “take it”? the prosecutor asked.

“Rob,” he responded.

YSL co-founder Walter Murphy testifies in the long-running RICO trial in Fulton County.

Credit: Court video

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Credit: Court video

Murphy’s attorney Jacoby Hudson said that when his client was younger, he “robbed people to give Jeff food. That’s how poor they grew up. It was dirt poverty.”

Later, as Young Thug’s career grew, “Jeff was against Mr. Murphy for doing stuff, he was robbing people.”

I suppose it looks bad if a member of the road crew is doing stickups.

Hudson, mindful that Murphy is being called a “snitch” for testifying, noted his client merely “signed a proffer that the DA gave him.” That proffer does note that YSL later became a gang.

“They say he’s snitching,” Hudson told me. “But he’s not saying anything bad about Jeff.”

Murphy certainly tried to hedge, dodge and equivocate as best he could during his time on the stand.

While answering a question, he said, “You’re asking me about something long, long time ago. You know how much I’ve been through since then?”

And still now.