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Defense attorney for rapper Young Thug found in contempt, ordered to spend 10 weekends in jail

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ATLANTA (AP) — A Georgia judge has ordered a lawyer for rapper Young Thug to spend the next 10 weekends in jail after finding him in contempt.

Defense attorney Brian Steel represents the rapper, who is currently on trial in Atlanta on charges including violation of Georgia’s anti-racketeering and gang laws. Fulton County Superior Court Chief Judge Ural Glanville on Monday ordered Steel jailed after the lawyer refused to tell him how he found out about a meeting between the judge, prosecutors and a prosecution witness.

The dramatic move is the latest twist in a trial that has dragged on for over a year with no end in sight and has been plagued by problems.

Young Thug, a Grammy winner whose given name is Jeffery Williams, was charged two years ago in a sprawling indictment accusing him and more than two dozen other people of conspiring to violate Georgia’s anti-racketeering law. He also is charged with gang, drug and gun crimes and is standing trial with five of the others indicted with him.

Jury selection in the case began in January 2023 and took nearly 10 months. Opening statements were in November and the prosecution has been presenting its case since then, calling dozens of witnesses.

Steel addressed Glanville in open court Monday, saying he had been informed of a meeting in the judge’s chambers that morning and “made several claims regarding the sum and substance of the communication that the Court found troubling,” Glanville wrote in an order finding Steel in contempt and ordering him jailed.

Only the judge, a court reporter, prosecutors, an important state witness and that witness’ attorney were present for the meeting and Glanville expressed “serious concern with how this information was improperly disclosed” to Steel. Glanville told Steel several times that if he didn’t reveal how he learned of the meeting and its substance he would be held in contempt, and Steel repeatedly refused, the order says.

Glanville ordered Steel to serve 20 days in the Fulton County Jail by spending the next 10 weekends there, reporting at 7 p.m. on Fridays and being released at 7 p.m. on Sundays beginning this Friday and continuing through Aug. 18.

Steel asked Glanville if he could serve his days in the Cobb County Jail, where Young Thug is being held, so he and his client could work on the rapper’s defense, and Glanville said he had no problem with that and would talk to the sheriff, news outlets reported.

Steel on Monday filed a notice of appeal of the contempt order to the Georgia Court of Appeals. He also filed a motion asking Glanville to “reconsider and rescind the order of contempt” or to grant him bond while his appeal is pending.

Steel’s motion says that the judge and prosecutors held a meeting with a sworn witness who had been granted immunity and who had been held in contempt after asserting his Fifth Amendment privilege. Steel’s motion says he disclosed in court that he was aware of that meeting and proceeded to move for a mistrial.

While the judge says Steel had information he shouldn’t have had, Steel’s motion says the information was not declared confidential by any court order and that in finding him in contempt Glanville “has imposed an illegal and inherently inconsistent punishment for this criminal contempt.”

Kenneth Copeland, the witness who took part in the meeting with the judge and prosecutors, had been jailed over the weekend after he refused to testify Friday even though he had an immunity deal with prosecutors and had agreed to testify, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. Copeland returned to the stand Monday and was released from custody as long as he agreed to continue testifying Tuesday, the newspaper reported.

Steel told Glanville that he had heard that a prosecutor told Copeland he could be held in jail until all the cases against all the defendants in the indictment were completed.

“If that’s true what this is is coercion, witness intimidation, ex parte communications that we have a constitutional right to be present for,” Steel said in court, according to the newspaper.

“I still want to know, how did you come upon this information,” Glanville asked. “Who told you?”

“What I want to know is why wasn’t I there,” Steel responded.

After another defense attorney in the case asked for a transcript of the meeting in the judge’s chambers, Glanville said there was “nothing improper” about the conversation and that he was “more concerned about the disclosure.”

Young Thug has been wildly successful since he began rapping as a teenager and he serves as CEO of his own record label, Young Stoner Life, or YSL. Artists on his record label are considered part of the “Slime Family,” and a compilation album, “Slime Language 2,” rose to No. 1 on the charts in April 2021.

But prosecutors say YSL also stands for Young Slime Life, which they allege is an Atlanta-based violent street gang affiliated with the national Bloods gang and founded by Young Thug and two others in 2012. Prosecutors say people named in the indictment are responsible for violent crimes — including killings, shootings and carjackings — to collect money for the gang, burnish its reputation and expand its power and territory.

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