Judge rules rap lyrics can be used against Young Thug in gang, racketeering trial

A judge ruled that rap lyrics can be used as evidence against rapper Young Thug when he goes to trial later this month on gang and racketeering charges.

Fulton County Superior Court Chief Judge Ural Glanville said Thursday that he would allow prosecutors to use the 17 sets of lyrics they have identified, as long as they can show the lyrics are related to crimes that the rapper has been accused of committing.

“The court is going to admit for the limit purpose thus far, the state’s request to apply the evidence statute as written,” Glanville said. “I’ll conditionally admit those pending lyrics depending upon, or subject to, a foundation that is properly laid by the state or the proponents that seeks to admit that evidence.”

The rapper’s defense attorneys had previously asked the judge to exclude them, saying the lyrics are constitutionally protected speech.

Jeffery Lamar Williams, known as Young Thug, was accused of founding a criminal street gang in 2012 that is responsible for violent crimes including killings, shootings and carjackings – and for using his songs and social media to promote it, The Associated Press reported.

The Atlanta-based artist was charged with others in an indictment last May, with more charges added in Aug. 2022. After some defendants reached plea deals and others had been agreed to be tried later, opening statements for the rapper’s trial are set to begin Nov. 27.

The ruling comes several months after U.S. lawmakers reintroduced the RAP Act, which intends to protect artists’ First Amendment rights.

Reps. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) and Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) reintroduced the Restoring Artistic Protection Act that would protect artists from the wrongful use of their lyrics against them in criminal and civil proceedings.

“This legislation is long overdue,” Johnson said in a statement. “For too long, artists – particularly young Black artists – have been unfairly targeted by prosecutors who use their lyrics as evidence of guilt, even though there is no evidence that the lyrics are anything more than creative expression.”

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