Judge Allows Young Thug's Lyrics as Evidence in Gang Trial, Sparks First Amendment Debate

The Atlanta judge presiding over the case rejects arguments that the move violates the First Amendment.

On Thursday (November 9), an Atlanta judge ruled to allow many of Young Thug’s lyrics to be used as evidence against him and other alleged gang members during their upcoming criminal trial.

According to Billboard, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Ural Glanville held a hearing about the use of lyrics as evidence on Wednesday – a controversial practice that many claim is against the Atlanta rapper’s First Amendment rights and has drawn heavy backlash from the music industry and efforts by U.S. lawmakers to stop it.

“They are targeting the right to free speech, and that’s wrong,” defense attorney Brian Steel said while blasting prosecutors. “They are saying that just because he his singing about it, he is now part of a crime.”

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It’s an argument that Judge Glanville largely rejected, claiming, “They’re not prosecuting your clients because of the songs they wrote,” according to the publication. “They’re using the songs to prove other things your clients may have been involved in. I don’t think it’s an attack on free speech.”

In a formal ruling on Thursday morning, the judge denied Thug’s request to ban the lyrics entirely and granted a motion by prosecutors to preliminarily admit them. Glanville noted that prosecutors would still need to establish why they were using them and that Steel could object during the trial.

Prosecutor Michael Carlson reportedly urged Judge Glanville to avoid sweeping questions about free speech, claiming the actual issue before the court was not rap lyrics but “proclamations of violence” instead.

“The issue here is not rap,” Carlson said of the lyrics, which he claims are “highly relevant in this case.” “This is not randomly the state attempting to bring in Run DMC from the 80s. This is specific. These are party admissions. They just happen come in the form of lyrics.”

Young Thug, Gunna and several other alleged members of YSL were indicted in May 2022. Gunna and several defendants eventually reached plea deals. Only Thug and five others will face a jury.

If fully convicted, Young Thug could face life in prison.

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