Tuesday, December 6, 2022 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Rapper Gunna joins Young Thug in Atlanta jail on gang-related charges

The notorious hip-hop stars are accused of using their fame to influence crimes committed throughout the city by members of a violent street gang since 2013.

ATLANTA (CN) — Atlanta rapper Gunna joined Young Thug behind the bars of the Fulton County Jail on Wednesday morning on racketeering charges for their alleged roles in a violent street gang, whose 26 other members face charges ranging from drug possession and carjacking to murder.

In an indictment targeting the Young Slime Life gang, 28-year-old artist, Gunna, whose legal name is Sergio Giavonni Kitchens, is charged with a single count of conspiracy to violate the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, frequently used against organized crime members.

Grammy award-winning hip-hop artist Young Thug, whose real name is Jeffery Williams, was taken into custody on Monday for allegedly co-founding the gang in Atlanta around 2012, with affiliated ties to the national Bloods gang.

Young Thug’s record label, Young Stoner Life, shares the same YSL initials as the Young Slime Life gang. According to prosecutors, Williams used his music career to further the interests of the gang, with references to signed artists as the “Slime Family” and a compilation album called “Slime Language 2,” which hit No. 1 on the charts in April 2021.

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis said the indictment is part of an effort to crack down on Atlanta's gang violence. The Democratic prosecutor has gained national attention for her investigation into whether former President Donald Trump committed election fraud in Georgia.

“As the district attorney of Fulton County, my No. 1 focus is targeting gangs,” Willis told reporters at a news conference Tuesday. “And there’s a reason for that. They are committing, conservatively, 75 to 80% of all of the violent crime that we are seeing within our community.”

A booking photo of Atlanta rapper Young Thug, whose given name is Jeffery Williams. (Fulton County Sheriff’s Office via AP)

Willis said she respects the First Amendment right to free speech, but believes the song lyrics cited in the indictment – including, "I never killed anybody but I got something to do with that body,” and, “I told them to shoot hundred rounds" – support the RICO charges.

Williams’ attorney Brian Steel pushed back on the allegations, stating that his client’s lyrics were simply a form of self-expression. “It’s offensive to take a musical artist’s poetry and then twist it out of context into crimes,” Steel told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The indictment includes a list of 181 illegal acts that prosecutors say were committed starting in 2013 as part of the alleged RICO conspiracy to enhance the gang's power and reputation.

Williams allegedly threatened to kill a man in a mall, and in 2015 rented an Infiniti sedan that five other gang members used to fatally shoot a rival gang member.

In 2017, according to the indictment, Williams and Kitchens intended to distribute drugs including methamphetamine and hydrocodone and were involved in a traffic stop the following year. One of their vehicles contained an AK-47 and several other weapons with high-capacity magazines.

Another famous rap artist, Dwayne Carter, better known as Lil Wayne, is mentioned in the indictment as a victim of one of the gang's attempted shootings, when his tour bus was allegedly shot at by a YSL member named Jimmy Winfrey in 2015.

Members of the gang allegedly tried to kill another rapper, YFN Lucci, whose given name is Rayshawn Bennett, by “stabbing and stabbing at” him with a shank in the Fulton County Jail, where he was held for another gang-related RICO indictment  last year.

Also mentioned in the indictment is an aspiring rapper named Christian Eppinger, who is already in jail on accusations of shooting an Atlanta police officer six times in February.

Despite the violent accusations, Young Thug and Gunna posted bail last year for 30 low-level inmates who were unable to afford the costs themselves and Gunna opened a no-cost grocery and apparel store at his former middle school to students and their families in the area where he grew up.

Willis said she plans to seek the maximum possible penalties for those charged in the indictment, which could mean life in prison for some of them.

Read the Top 8

Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.

Loading
Loading...