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Young Thug’s Lawyers Say Judge ‘Morphed’ Into Prosecutor: ‘Potential Criminal Conduct’

Young Thug’s lawyers are calling for the rapper’s immediate release from jail, a mistrial, and the disqualification of the Georgia judge overseeing the now-notorious YSL racketeering conspiracy trial, claiming a recently unsealed transcript from a secret meeting with a sworn witness shows Judge Ural Glanville has “morphed into an essential part of the prosecution team.”

In a blistering new court filing obtained by Rolling Stone, Young Thug’s defense lawyers Brian Steel and Keith Adams say Judge Glanville must be disqualified from handling the high-profile case after he engaged in an “improper, secret and coercive pressure campaign” with prosecutors on June 10 to get key prosecution witness Kenneth “Woody” Copeland to testify. The defense lawyers say after the secret meeting, Judge Glanville and meeting participants Fulton County Deputy District Attorneys Adriane Love and Simone Hylton stonewalled them with a “cover up, secrecy and silence.” In their 233-page filing, the lawyers call the response “unforgivable” and accuse Glanville of “gross misconduct, violation of his oath of office, ethical violations and potential criminal conduct.”

Young Thug, born Jeffery Williams, is now asking for an immediate and “reasonable” bond because his right to a fair and speedy trial “has been totally upended” and “trampled” by the allegedly “derelict” judge, the new filing states. His defense lawyers say Williams also has a right to demand details about other possible “improper ex parte communications” that may have taken place since his trial’s “inception.”

“This is the definition of a biased judge and unethical prosecutors. This trial is Constitutionally broken forever because of the outrageous actions of these three ‘public officials,’” the lawyers write in their new motion paperwork. “Mr. Williams must be released from custody, instanter and cleared of all charges based upon prosecutorial and judicial misconduct.”

Steel and Adams previously called for Judge Glanville’s removal after they first learned of the secret meeting with prosecutors and Copeland last month. The highly controversial meeting, which excluded defense lawyers, focused on Copeland’s ongoing refusal to testify even after he was granted use immunity and spent a weekend in jail for getting on the witness stand on a Friday and still invoking his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. Lawyers for Williams and his five co-defendants say they had a right to be informed of the meeting considering Copeland already was a sworn witness and anything he told the court would be fair game for their defense cases. (Prosecutors had described Copeland as an unindicted co-conspirator in the case and say he had knowledge of the 2015 murder of Donovan Thomas, one of the three homicides cited in the 2022 RICO indictment that already has kept Williams behind bars for two years.)

After the allegedly improper June 10 meeting, Copeland was released from custody in exchange for agreeing to testify. That same day, defense lawyers learned about the secret meeting, and Steel confronted Judge Glanville on the record, saying he was worried Copeland had been threatened with more jail time. Rather than order the meeting transcript’s immediate release, Judge Glanville voiced concern with how Steel found out and held him in contempt when Steel refused to give up his source. The meeting, combined with Judge Glanville’s punitive response, quickly led to multiple calls for recusal and release of the meeting transcript. After initially resisting, Glanville released the transcript under pressure last week and halted the trial, now in its 19th month, until another Fulton County judge can decide whether Glanville should be removed from the case.

In their new motion, Steel and Adams claim the transcript proves their worst suspicions — that Judge Glanville acted in “lockstep” with prosecutors as the trio “cajoled perjured testimony from Mr. Copeland, hid (exculpatory) evidence and worked together to wrongly convict Mr. Williams.” The defense lawyers allege the judge and prosecutors “had an agenda to ensure that Mr. Copeland testifies against Mr. Williams in order to convict Mr. Williams.”

Rolling Stone‘s request for comment from Judge Glanville on Tuesday was returned by a Fulton County spokesperson who said Georgia’s code of judicial conduct “prohibits judges from commenting on actions still pending before the court.” Prosecutors Love and Hylton did not immediately respond to Rolling Stone‘s request for comment.

The scathing new filing from Steel and Adams systematically dissects the June 10 meeting transcript, alleging Judge Glanville attempted to “intimidate” Copeland by claiming that if Copeland did not get back on the witness stand, he could be held in jail — not only until the end of trial for Williams and the five co-defendants, but until a dozen others who also were indicted with Williams finished their severed cases as well.

“If I don’t testify, I have to stay in until when?” Copeland asked the court during the June 10 meeting.

“Until the trial is over. Until all the defendants have been — I’ve got these six that we have right now, and then there’s another six,” Judge Glanville replied, according to the transcript. DDA Hylton then corrected the judge, saying the tally was actually 12 other defendants who were awaiting separate trials. The judge then noted the corrected number to Copeland.

In their filing, Williams’ lawyers say Judge Glanville’s claim was “just not true” and amounted to improper “pressure” placed on Copeland. “In fact, Judge Glanville is not even the judge on the other co-indictees’ cases,” they wrote. The lawyers also faulted Glanville for telling Copeland his immunity agreement protected him from prosecution. In reality, Copeland received only use immunity, not transactional immunity, the new filing states. That means other prosecutors outside Fulton County could possibly charge him over an offense covered by his testimony if other evidence emerges that implicates him. (Transactional immunity is broader and protects a witness from prosecution for the offense involved.)  

“If you are worried about what the defendants may ask you [on cross-examination] because they may know your business … you can’t be prosecuted for any of those,” Judge Glanville told Copeland, according to the transcript. Steel and Adams claim Glanville misled Copeland, improperly dispensed legal advice, and made biased statements that presumed Williams could draw on insider knowledge of other criminal endeavors during cross-examination. The lawyers say the transcript proves Judge Glanville was “far from acting as an impartial judge” during the ex parte meeting.

The lawyers also highlight the fact that Copeland made several statements during the secret meeting that defense lawyers were entitled to have for possible impeachment. For instance, Copeland said, “I have never been truthful a day in my life until I just made this statement right now,” according to the transcript. He later added, “I [told the police] whatever different story I could think of to try to finesse my way out of the situation.” In yet another statement, Copeland said, “I did these crimes. I’m telling you that,” according to the transcript.

Beyond Judge Glanville, the new motion from Steel and Adams further seeks to recuse Judge Rachel Krause, the Fulton County judge recently tapped to step in and determine whether Judge Glanville should be removed. The new filing points out that Judge Glanville previously contributed $2,000 to Judge Krause’s reelection campaign. Judge Krause has not yet ruled on anything in the recusal matter beyond giving prosecutors until Wednesday to file a response.

Douglas Weinstein, a defense lawyer representing fellow rap artist Deamonte “Yak Gotti” Kendrick in the same trial as Williams, tells Rolling Stone he found the content of the transcript “horrifying.” Weinstein filed his own motion to recuse Judge Glanville last month and is also seeking the recusal of Judge Krause.  

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“Now that I’ve seen the transcript, I am appalled,” Weinstein says. “Seeing the judge in league with the prosecutors, coercing a witness to testify, is something I’ve never seen nor heard of before. I imagine Mr. Copeland sitting in the judge’s chambers, sitting there with a couple investing officers, members of the DA’s office, the judge, the court reporter, and four deputies, and I can’t help thinking about the pressure he must have felt. I just feel for him. He had an attorney there trying to give him some guidance, but he’s being hot-boxed by the judge in cooperation with the prosecutor.”

Weinstein says he agrees with “everything” in the new motion from Steel and Adams. “Brian Steel has a real honest sense of justice and believes in our system, and you can read and see how aghast he is at what has happened,” Weinstein says. “He has every right to be as outraged as he is, and I am equally outraged.”

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