OPINION: Young Thug and alleged crew will probably stew in jail

Atlanta rapper Young Thug, whose real name is Jeffery Williams, appears virtually before a Fulton County Magistrate judge on Tuesday, May 10, 2022. (Arvin Temkar / arvin.temkar@ajc.com)

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

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Atlanta rapper Young Thug, whose real name is Jeffery Williams, appears virtually before a Fulton County Magistrate judge on Tuesday, May 10, 2022. (Arvin Temkar / arvin.temkar@ajc.com)

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

What is freedom worth? Rapper Young Thug was set to pay $1 million a year to get out of his jail cell.

Lawyers for Atlanta music superstar, who was born Jeffery Williams and is accused of running a violent street gang, came up with a novel approach to getting him bonded out of solitary confinement.

Young Thug was arrested last month in a wide-ranging racketeering case that swept up him, some other rappers and a bunch of purported street-level criminals. They’re accused of being part of a gang called YSL — Young Slime Life or Young Stoner Life. YSL is also the name of his record label.

Mr. Thug has been moved from Fulton County’s jail to Cobb’s to prevent any complications that may arise at Fulton, which is thick with all sorts of friends and foes.

At a bond hearing last week, Young Thug’s legal team trotted out a private eye who concocted a masterful plan to pay two off-duty cops each $60 an hour to be on the premises 24/7 at one of the rapper’s four Atlanta-area homes. They would search the joint ahead of Young Thug’s release from jail to make sure there were no phones, computers or any other devices for him to contact the outside world. Then he’d be a prisoner in his own fancy home until trial.

It would cost $1 million a year, and that’s before paying for bond. I’ve said this case is a boon to local defense lawyers. Thug’s bond would have been a boon to cops seeking second jobs.

But Fulton Judge Ural Glanville considered the request and quickly said, “Nah.”

For weeks, Glanville has been pretty adamant about not releasing anyone in this case. When considering bond, judges must determine if a person being released is a risk to flee or if they might create more havoc while free.

It turns out the Glanville is not concerned about accused YSL crew members running away. He’s worried what might happen if they’re released and stick around.

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Judge Ural Glanville sanctioned then-ethics commission director Holly LaBerge and the Attorney General’s Office and fined them $10,000 each. KENT D. JOHNSON / kent.johnson@ajc.com

Judge Ural Glanville sanctioned then-ethics commission director Holly LaBerge and the Attorney General’s Office and fined them $10,000 each. KENT D. JOHNSON / kent.johnson@ajc.com

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Judge Ural Glanville sanctioned then-ethics commission director Holly LaBerge and the Attorney General’s Office and fined them $10,000 each. KENT D. JOHNSON / kent.johnson@ajc.com

During an all-day court hearing, Fulton prosecutor Don Geary made it plain that he believes Young Thug is a very scary man. Geary portrayed the accused gang leader of being a Genghis Khan-like character — that is, if the Mongol warlord rapped in rhyming lyrics and threw gang symbols.

Geary told the judge that witnesses “have stated Mr. Williams is dangerous,” he told the judge. They are afraid of him and if they cross him he will kill them and their families.” He did add, however, there are no examples of recent threats coming from the rapper.

The hard-nosed, veteran prosecutor spent many minutes in the bond hearing reading YSL song lyrics, accusing the rapper of peppering his songs with his actual misdeeds. Watching the balding, mustachioed Geary read the lyrics was akin to watching your grandfather reading Wu-Tang Clan lyrics aloud.

“I’ve never killed anybody but I’ve got something to do with that body,” Geary said, reading a lyric included in the indictment.

Keith Adams, one of Young Thug’s attorneys, accused prosecutors of picking and choosing lyrics to make their client seem menacing. He said Geary was repeating “portions of song lyrics that they don’t know what they are talking about but are putting them in as fact. I guarantee you they could not tell you who wrote the song or who was singing a particular lyric.”

Another lyric Geary read was, “I shot at his mommy, now he no longer mention me.” That, he said, referred to YSL members shooting at the mother of a rival rapper, YFN Lucci, another bigtime Atlanta hip-hop artist who came into the world as Rayshawn Bennett.

Lucci is in Fulton jail, charged with his own gang racketeering case from 2021. That case contends he was at the wheel of a $300,000 Mercedes Maybach during a fatal drive-by shooting.

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Atlanta rapper YFN Lucci among a dozen named in racketeering indictment related to gang activity

Atlanta rapper YFN Lucci among a dozen named in racketeering indictment related to gang activity

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Atlanta rapper YFN Lucci among a dozen named in racketeering indictment related to gang activity

According to the recent indictment, Lucci was shanked in Fulton jail in February by YSL members.

One of the accused shankmen is a young but veteran criminal named Jayden Myrick, who was an armed robber at 14 and accused killer at 17. In fact, that killing rocked the city back in 2018 after Myrick allegedly shot a young father to death outside the Capital City Club in Atlanta.

What made that killing especially egregious was that a Fulton judge released him from custody a few months before, worried that sending the teen to adult prison might forge a path as a career criminal. Months later, Christian Broder, a restaurant manager who was leaving a wedding reception, was bleeding out on the pavement outside the country club.

Cases like that make judges wary of letting people out when there is a reason to keep them locked up. Myrick is named in the YSL indictment, but the Capital City killing is not.

Fulton District Attorney Fani Willis said a 2015 drive-by shooting by accused YSL members caused a gang war that has resulted in 50 killings. Very few of those killings, however, are named in this indictment. But that sweeping allegation makes the case all the more notorious, catapulting it into a national media sensation.

With that in mind, my guess is whoever is wrapped up in this — no matter how deep they were in the alleged wrong-doing — is going to stew in jail until trial.