Thu. Jul 25th, 2024

ATLANTA — The judge overseeing the criminal racketeering case against Young Thug recessed the trial indefinitely until an outside judge can review motions from the Atlanta rapper and others seeking to recuse the judge from the case amid allegations that he and prosecutors held an improper meeting with a key witness.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Ural Glanville made the surprise announcement as attorneys gathered for what had been scheduled to be a private hearing to review the transcript of a June 10 meeting between the judge, prosecutors and Kenneth Copeland, a Young Thug associate and star witness in the gang conspiracy case.

Several defense attorneys have sought to remove Glanville from overseeing the case, calling his meeting with a sworn witness “improper” and accusing the judge and prosecutors of pressuring a key witness to testify — motions that Glanville had denied.

Last month, Brian Steel, Young Thug’s lead attorney, was found in criminal contempt and ordered to serve 20 weekend days in jail after he questioned Glanville about the meeting and refused to reveal who told him about it — a sentence the Georgia Supreme Court later stayed as Steel appeals.

On Monday, Glanville abruptly made the hearing public and announced from the bench that he planned to release the full transcript of the meeting with Copeland “so everyone will have a chance to look at it.” He then reversed himself, announcing that he would refer recusal motions to another judge to determine whether he should remain on the case.

“We’ll be in recess until that time,” Glanville declared.

The announcement appeared to catch many by surprise, including prosecutors who immediately raised concerns about the impact on the jury in what is already the longest criminal trial in Georgia history at 18 months and counting. Jurors have not heard testimony in the case since June 17 amid disputes over Copeland’s testimony and evidence issues.

“Do we have a timeline of when the motion to recuse might be heard?” asked Simone Hylton, a deputy Fulton County district attorney and key prosecutor on the case.

“I don’t know,” Glanville replied. “I don’t have anything to do with that.”

The dramatic developments came as the racketeering trial against Young Thug, whose real name is Jeffery Lamar Williams, has dragged on at a glacial pace, marred by jury and witness problems and other daily turmoil that has engulfed the high-profile prosecution led by Fulton County District Attorney Fani T. Willis (D).

The Young Thug prosecution is one of two high-profile criminal racketeering cases being led by Willis’s office. Last summer, the veteran prosecutor brought charges against former president Donald Trump and more than a dozen of his associates, alleging that they criminally conspired to try to overturn Trump’s 2020 election loss in Georgia.

That case is now at a standstill, as Trump and others appeal a judge’s decision to allow Willis to continue prosecuting the case amid complaints that she had an improper romantic relationship with the former lead prosecutor in the case.

Young Thug and 27 other associates were charged in May 2022 as part of a sweeping grand jury indictment that alleged that the rapper and his associates were members of a violent criminal street gang in Atlanta.

Prosecutors have alleged that Young Thug was head of the gang, known as YSL, or Young Slime Life, and have charged him with criminal racketeering and gang charges while others were charged with other violent crimes, including murder and attempted armed robbery.

Young Thug’s attorneys have countered by claiming YSL is merely a record label and have attacked prosecutors for introducing Young Thug’s lyrics as evidence at trial, arguing that his rhymes were merely artistic expression, not literal recounting of criminal acts.

Jury selection in the case began in January 2023 and took 10 months. Opening statements took place in late November — though proceedings were almost immediately halted after one of Young Thug’s co-defendants was stabbed in jail and hospitalized. Proceedings resumed in January but have been marred by constant delays, including frequent bickering between the attorneys and the judge.

Monday marked the 100th day of proceedings since opening statements, though jurors have heard testimony for roughly only half of those days. Prosecutors are not yet halfway through their projected witness list of more than 200 people.

Attorneys in the case have suggested the trial could last well into 2025 or beyond — though that was before the latest turmoil, which has sparked questions about the future of the proceedings and whether Glanville will maintain control of the case.

Defense attorneys have repeatedly accused Glanville of bias, claims that have only intensified in recent weeks. In a June 17 motion, Steel accused Glanville of being an unofficial member of the prosecution team seeking to convict his client.

At the same time, an attorney for another co-defendant filed an emergency petition with the Georgia Supreme Court to halt the case and consider whether Glanville should recuse — a request the high court declined to take up on procedural grounds because it wasn’t heard by a lower court first.

“Glanville’s actions offend public confidence in the independence, integrity, and impartiality of the judiciary,” Doug Weinstein, an attorney for the rapper Yak Gotti, whose real name is Deamonte Kendrick, wrote in the motion. “An appearance of impropriety and bias hangs over the present trial due to Glanville’s failure to follow the law.”

Though it declined to hear the motion, the Georgia Supreme Court notably said in its ruling that if Weinstein were to file his motion in Fulton County Superior Court that Glanville “would be disqualified from presiding over the matter” and “a different judge would consider.”

Weinstein refiled his petition late Friday in Fulton County, which was assigned to another judge.

It’s unclear if that’s what prompted the events Monday. From the bench, Glanville read from what he said would be a written order, describing a timeline of events that led to the private meeting with Copeland. He cited numerous pieces of case law as he argued he didn’t do anything wrong.

“In this particular case, the court is of the opinion, based on case law, that this was a proper ex-parte meeting,” Glanville said.

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#Judge #halts #Young #Thugs #YSL #trial #Georgia #misconduct #complaints

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