Monday, June 24, 2024

Young Thug Lawyer Taken Into Custody for Contempt of Court

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The Atlanta judge overseeing Young Thug’s gang trial held the rapper’s attorney in criminal contempt of court Monday (June 10) in a bizarre episode centered on claims of a secret meeting between the judge, prosecutors and a key witness.

After attorney Brian Steel argued that the so-called ex parte meeting involved the improper coercion of a sworn witness, Judge Ural Glanville repeatedly demanded that Steel divulge who had informed him about a private meeting in his chambers. “If you don’t tell me how you got this information, you and I are going to have problems.”

Steel refused to do so, saying that it had been the meeting itself that was the problem. “You’re not supposed to have communication with a witness who’s been sworn,” he told the judge. During the meeting, Steel said he had been told, prosecutors and the judge had pressed the witness, Kenneth Copeland, to testify by saying he could be held in jail for an extended period of time if he did not.

“If that’s true, what this is is coercion, witness intimidation,” Steel told Glanville, arguing that defense counsel should have been notified of a meeting involving a sworn witness and that it was grounds for a mistrial.

After Steel continued to refuse to share where he received the information, Glanville held him in contempt and eventually ordered him taken into custody. As he was escorted out of the courtroom, into custody, Steel told the judge that Thug did not wish to proceed without his attorney present: “You’re taking away his right to counsel.”

The move to banish Steel led to confusion in the courtroom. Thug’s other attorney, Keith Adams, said he could not continue without his co-counsel, and even prosecutors asked that Steel be present for the remainder of the day if the trial was going to proceed with testimony. Judge Glanville eventually agreed, allowing Steel to re-enter, but said he had not softened his stance.

“You will go into custody at 5 o’clock today  … if you don’t tell me who that is,” the judge said. “This is criminal contempt. I have asked you a question related to this particular proceeding and if you don’t tell me you’ll suffer the consequences.”

It’s unclear if the contempt will impact Steel’s ability to continue to represent Thug as the case moves forward. Steel did not immediately return a request for comment on Monday.

Thug (Jeffery Williams) and dozens of others were indicted in May 2022 over allegations that his “YSL” group was not really a record label called “Young Stoner Life” but a violent Atlanta gang called “Young Slime Life.” Prosecutors claim the group committed murders, carjackings, armed robberies, drug dealing and other crimes over the course of a decade.

Jury selection kicked off in January 2023, but the trial itself did not begin until November and has since been marked by numerous delays. With dozens of witnesses still set to testify in the prosecution case, the trial is expected to run into 2025.

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