Young Thug's lawyer escapes jail time after being held in contempt of court. Here's what to know about the complex RICO trial.

The Georgia Supreme Court granted Brian Steel an emergency motion on Wednesday.

Jeffery Williams, aka Young Thug
Jeffery "Young Thug" Williams, and his lawyer Brian Steel at the Fulton County Superior Court in Atlanta. (Miguel Martinez/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

Rapper Young Thug's lawyer avoided jail time Wednesday, thanks to the Georgia Supreme Court, after he was held in contempt by a Georgia judge in the high-profile RICO case against his famous client. Prosecutors have accused the rapper of leading an Atlanta-based street gang to commit acts of murder and robbery, among others.

The charge against Brian Steel, who has been representing the Grammy-award-winning artist in Georgia’s high-profile case, is the latest development in a case that has been marred with setbacks, adding another layer to what is said to be the longest trial in state history.

Here’s what to know about Young Thug’s complex criminal trial.

🗣️ What’s happening with Young Thug’s lawyer?

On June 7, Judge Ural Glanville held Steel in criminal contempt after he accused Glanville and prosecutors of having an “unconstitutional” closed-door meeting with Kenneth “Lil Woody” Copeland — the prosecution’s star witness — and refused to tell the judge who told him about the meeting.

Copeland is accused of being an associate of YSL, Young Thug's record label. Copeland says that YSL stands for Young Stoner Life, but prosecutors say YSL also stands for Young Slime Life, a violent street gang.

That same day, Copeland, who had been granted immunity, did not take the stand after asserting his Fifth Amendment privilege, and was taken to jail.

However, Copeland came back and testified on June 10 about his connections to Young Thug and YSL.

Steel told Glanville in court that if a closed-door meeting happened, “what this is is coercion, witness intimidation, ex parte communications that we have a constitutional right to be present for.”

Glanville had ordered Steel to serve the next 10 weekends in the Fulton County Jail starting this weekend, but on June 12, the Georgia Supreme Court granted an emergency request for bond. Steel will not report to jail on Friday, and will remain free while his contempt of court charge is being appealed.

⚖️ What’s the trial about?

Young Thug
Young Thug at Lollapalooza, Aug. 1, 2021. (Vashon Jordan Jr./Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

In May 2022, a Fulton County grand jury indicted rapper Jeffrey “Young Thug” Williams on conspiracy to violate the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, otherwise known as RICO. The rapper was also charged with gang, drug and gun crimes.

The rapper, charged along with 27 other people, is standing trial with five co-defendants. Several of those listed in the indictment either took a plea deal, did not have some sort of legal representation, had their cases separated from Young Thug’s trial or had not been arrested.

Among the gang activities listed in the indictment are murder, attempted murder, armed robbery, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and vehicle hijacking. In August 2022, additional counts were added to include drug and gun charges for Young Thug. The RICO charge and his two gang charges carry a five to 20-year prison sentence.

Fulton County prosecutor Adriane Love accused members of YSL of “moving like a pack,” with Young Thug leading them and their associates.

"For 10 years and counting, the group calling itself Young Slime Life dominated the Cleveland Avenue community of Fulton County," Love said during opening statements in November. She also accused YSL of creating “a crater in the middle of Fulton County's Cleveland Avenue community, that sucked in the youth, the innocence and even the lives of some of [its] youngest members.”

All defendants on trial have pleaded not guilty.

​​Steel told the New York Times in 2022 that the rapper "came from an incredibly horrible upbringing, and he has conducted himself throughout his life in a way that is just to marvel at. He’s committed no crime whatsoever.”

🏛️ What makes the trial so complex?

Since the trial began in November 2023, at least 17 specific sets of lyrics from Young Thug and YSL that were mentioned in the indictment have been submitted as evidence. Prosecutors say the lyrics represent "overt acts in furtherance of the conspiracy" to violate the RICO Act.

The lyrics include: “You wanna be slime? Go catch you a body,” from YSL’s song "Really Be Slime" and “I never killed anybody, but I got something to do with that body … I get all types of cash, I’m a general,” from Young Thug’s 2018 song, “Anybody.”

However, the defense has argued that admitting the lyrics as evidence was racist.

“Using these lyrics/poetry/artistry/speech against Mr. Williams is racist and discriminatory because the jury will be so poisoned and prejudiced by these lyrics/poetry/artistry/speech as the same is unlawful character assassination,” Young Thug’s lawyer said in a motion.

Young Thug's trial is one of two high-profile cases the office of Fulton Count District Attorney Fani Willis is prosecuting. In 2023, she indicted former President Donald Trump and more than a dozen of his allies on RICO charges for allegedly conspiring to attempt to overturn Georgia’s 2020 presidential election results.

The complex trial has also been weighed down by a series of events that have slowed down the judicial process including:

▶️ What happens next

Glanville has denied Young Thug bond multiple times, claiming that the rapper was a threat to witnesses, had the potential to flee and is a danger to the community.

The trial could continue into 2025.