What Young Thug and Gunna’s Indictment Means for Rap Music on Trial

Glading Marteen 

On May 9, Young Thug was arrested at his Atlanta home after being named in a broad 56-count gang indictment. According to the indictment, the rapper and 27 other people, including Gunna, allegedly conspired to violate the Georgia criminal racketeering law. The government claims that YSL—Young Thug’s rap collective and label also known as Young Stoner Life—is a criminal gang with ties to the national Bloods organization.

Specifically, the 28 people named in the indictment are all charged with conspiracy to violate the state’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO. That’s Georgia’s version of the federal law originally designed to fight organized crime. Under this complicated statute, prosecutors must prove that the defendants committed at least two specific offenses within a 10-year period that were part of a racketeering scheme. If found guilty, penalties for RICO include up to 20 years in prison, a monetary fine, or both.

Young Thug is also charged with participation in a criminal street gang—a state violation also carrying a potential prison sentence of up to 20 years. Gunna is charged only under RICO. Charges against others named in the indictment span murder, attempted murder, robbery, assault, carjacking, and theft, along with possession of drugs and firearms.

As for Young Thug, prosecutors claim he co-founded YSL as a “criminal street gang” in 2012. According to the 88-page indictment, Young Thug committed more than 30 crimes under RICO from 2013 to 2021, among them theft, terroristic threats, and possession of drugs with the intent to distribute. Some of Young Thug’s alleged crimes, per the indictment, include the lyrics to several songs and various social media photos over the years of him “flashing a YSL gang hand sign.”

Some of the most serious charges in the indictment involve the January 2015 death of Donovan Thomas, Jr., who was shot at an Atlanta barbershop in a suspected drive-by shooting, according to a local news report at the time. Five of Young Thug’s alleged YSL associates—including another YSL rapper, Yak Gotti, whose real name is Deamonte Kendrick—are now charged with Thomas’ murder. Yak Gotti and the four other people are also charged with the attempted murder of two others.

Three days before the alleged murder, the indictment asserts, Young Thug rented a silver Infiniti sedan that was used in the killing. The indictment claims that Thomas was a rival gang member. A little more than two weeks after Thomas’s death, Young Thug and a different alleged gang leader purportedly took part in a conversation where one of them said that “sacrifices must be made, soldiers must fall in order for battle to be won.” The next day, Young Thug allegedly said in a video posted to social media: “So a n**** lie to they momma, lie to they kids, lie to they brothers and sisters then get right into the courtroom and tell the God’s honest truth, don’t get it, y’all n***** need to get fucking killed bro, from me and YSL,” in what prosecutors argue was another RICO offense.

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