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WATCH: In Fani Willis’ 'Young Thug’ RICO Case, Defense Attorney Calls Out the Judge and Gets ARRESTED

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Crazy things are happening in Georgia.

Let’s start with the basics. Young Thug is a rapper. His real name is Jeffery Lamar Williams. He and 27 others were indicted by Fani Willis' prosecutors for RICO (basically a statute punishing organized crime), alleging more or less that the rapper really is a gangster, as part of a criminal organization/gang called Young Slime Life. Really. We are not making that name up.

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We won’t pretend we have ever heard of Young Thug/Williams before this trial started getting attention, and we won’t pretend to know whether or not he is guilty. We don’t assume that rappers who call themselves thugs are actually thugs. It's often a complete act. And in a real way, it doesn’t matter in this story whether he is guilty or innocent because he deserves a fair trial and what is going on here with the judge and the prosecutors looks shady as heck.

Allow us to quote from the judge’s own order, because it is also an admission:

During the proceedings in the above-styled case on the afternoon of June 10, 2024, one of the two representatives for Defendant Jeffery Williams, Mr. Brian Steel, took to the podium and stated to the Court that he had been informed of an ex parte communication which took place in the Court’s chambers that morning. The only parties present for this ex parte matter were the Court, the Court’s official court reporter, representatives from the State, the State’s witness Mr. Kenneth Copeland, and counsel for Mr. Copeland. In addition to the Court’s serious concern with how this information was improperly disclosed to Defense counsel, Mr. Steel made several claims regarding the sum and substance of the communication that the Court found troubling. The Court having told Mr. Steel multiple times that he needs to tell the Court how he came into that information, and the Court having explicitly warned Mr. Steel that he faces contempt of court should he not comply, the Court finds Mr. Steel has repeatedly refused to follow the Court’s order.

Let’s detangle that, because the judge is glossing something over. Kenneth Copeland is a witness the prosecution wanted to call to the stand. He initially refused to testify citing his Fifth Amendment right not to be compelled to be a witness against himself, according to this article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

That Fifth Amendment privilege can be overcome by being given immunity from prosecution and allegedly Copeland was given that immunity. At that point, the law says that even if Copeland confesses to a multitude of crimes, that is not self-incrimination because the immunity prevents the incrimination part. Still Copeland refused to testify on Friday, apparently pleading the Fifth again, and spent the weekend in jail for that refusal. So far so normal, truthfully.

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Then, according to the judge’s own words, Judge Glanville had an ex parte meeting in chambers. That is legal speak for a meeting without one or more of the other parties. So, according to the judge, the prosecution was there, Copeland was there, Copeland’s lawyer was there, and so was the court reporter, but none of the defense lawyers were there.

We are at a complete loss to explain why the judge felt that this was proper. The Georgia Code of Judicial Conduct Rule 3.4 says

Judges shall accord to every person who has a legal interest in a proceeding, or that person’s lawyer, the right to be heard according to law. Judges shall not initiate, permit, or consider ex parte communications, or consider other communications made to them outside the presence of the parties, or their lawyers, concerning a pending proceeding or impending matter, subject to the following listed exceptions

It goes on to list a number of exceptions, but we haven’t found any that seem to apply or any attempt by the judge himself to justify doing this. But it is possible that we have missed an article or video that outlines the argument.

Furthermore, in the majority of exceptions, the judge is still under a duty to disclose to the defense that this ex parte communication has happened. Here, the judge not only didn’t disclose it, he is mad at Mr. Steel for finding out and demanded to know how he learned of this. This is baffling behavior by Judge Glanville.

Mind you, it’s not impossible to justify some secrecy, especially in essentially a ‘mafia’ case. For instance, there could be an allegation that Williams (the defendant) was threatening Copeland by word or gesture in court, to keep him from testifying. But that only justifies a meeting without Williams: His lawyer still could have been there. There have been rare instances of a lawyer being allegedly part of that intimidation effort, which might justify excluding Steel from the room. But that doesn’t explain why they can’t set up a situation where Steel can listen by phone or by closed circuit video and not speak. And it certainly doesn’t explain why they can keep it all a secret afterward. We’re not saying it is impossible to justify the judge’s behavior, but the judge needs to go on record justifying it, and soon. And that explanation better be a doozy because we are having trouble imagining any scenario that justifies it.

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In any case, you can see the moment that led up to Steel was taken into custody, here:

This Thugger Daily account is apparently dedicated to gathering and sharing all of the news related to the case. Here’s a different angle on that moment of arrest:

Seriously, Steel didn’t seem to think he had any explanation from the judge why Judge Glanville was having this secret ex parte communication and when he asked, the judge wasn’t interested in explaining himself. We also get this video which cuts several videos in a way that is useful and shows the judge providing absolutely no attempt to explain his ex parte communication. In fact, he doesn’t even seem to see how it could be a problem:

(The cut off text just describes the argument at the hearing, which you can hear for yourself.)

In any case, there is no explanation in that longer video as to why that ex parte communication is still secret. We don’t officially know what was said behind closed doors, which is unfair to the defendant. And as Steele and his partner pointed out, the arrest of Mr. Steel was unfair to his client, because he was being denied representation by the attorney of his choice.

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The full order holding him in contempt is found at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution article, and we will note that Steel only has to serve his sentence for contempt on the weekends. According to ‘ThuggerDaily’ that lawyer made a pretty baller request:

This even prompted a familiar face to show up in court:

If that name sounds familiar, it should:

Furthermore, the Altana Journal-Constitution article we cited before has this to say about her:

Marietta attorney Ashleigh Merchant, who is president of the Georgia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, represented Steel in trying to obtain his release from custody after the jury was excused.

Over the past decade, she has been a member of the legal group’s ‘strike force’ team, which represents lawyers found in contempt of court.

‘We’re not OK with this,’ Merchant said. ‘We’re not going to let this happen to our brother, who was simply doing his job ... This is not how advocates should be treated. It’s hard enough being a criminal defense attorney, and we shouldn’t be threatened with jail.’

Merchant arrived at the Fulton courthouse along with about two dozen other Atlanta attorneys willing to advocate for Steel.

She asked that Glanville recuse himself from Steel’s contempt case, calling him a witness to whatever ex parte communication occurred in his chambers.

‘This needs to be heard by a different judge,’ she said in court, pulling up case law that differentiated between civil and criminal contempt cases.

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When she said ‘This needs to be heard by a different judge,’ she meant the contempt issue. We also found a post which has video of some of her argument. The irritating thing is that it also includes people commenting on the hearing, so you will have to use your judgement to figure out which is her argument and which is the commentary:

We're not sure we want to see (or smell) a fuming Fani.

We wanted to share that second video with you because she is asking the obvious question: Why the heck was this discussion ex parte in the first place? 

Another criminal attorney weighed in on possible procedural shortcomings of the order holding Steel in contempt:

The reference to an ‘ethical lapse’ would appear to be an accusation aimed at the judge and we have to think it relates to the ex parte issue.

And of course, someone else had Steel’s back, already filing an appeal of this contempt decision:

Mr. Steel better be really nice to his wife, then.

Meanwhile Marc Randazza was angry about the whole thing:

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Marc also had some more to say in other posts on Twitter/X but he has a bad habit of using naughty, naughty words, so rather than embedding the posts, we will be quoting them, with censorship. For instance, in response to Collin Rugg’s video, he wrote:

Watch this s—t. Fulton County, GA.  (Is there something in the water there?)  

Imagine what happens in when there isn't intense gavel to gavel coverage.  This kind of crap happens every day.

Honestly, in our experience it is still rare, but we tend to think that if the public has a right to be there, a camera should be able to be there, too.

He also had this to say about Mrs. Steel’s defense of her husband:

Steel is the lawyer for a rapper.  Went to JAIL for his client.  And now he's got a wife who can come in and rescue him?  

Talk about pulling a royal straight flush in the poker game of being a legend m———r!

He was also asked by another person: "Real talk.  How bad is this?  From 1 to Holy S—t[?]" Marc responded:

We are not sure what that means but we think that is off the scale worse.

Other commentary:

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Okay, that was pretty funny. This beats most episodes of The Practice.

Finally, we get this comment:

YSL apparently refers to the Young Slug Life gang that is at the center this criminal case. We’re not sure if Steel would enjoy being claimed to be part of the alleged gang, but the rest of the comment is on point. Sometimes a lawyer has to be willing to get arrested for what he or she believes in.

If you ever face criminal charges, try to find a lawyer willing to fight that hard for you.

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