Witness in Young Thug trial arrested in court for refusing to testify

Young Thug’s trial was thrown into chaos this week when a witness was arrested in court for refusing to testify.

Young Thug is currently on trial for allegedly conspiring to violate Georgia’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organisations (RICO) Act, along with seven further drug- and gang- related felonies.

It follows his 2022 arrest, when he was one of 28 people charged in an indictment that focused on the alleged street gang YSL (“Young Slime Life”), which is believed to have formed in Atlanta in 2012. Thug is suspected of being one of three of the alleged gang’s founding members.

Prosecutors suspect that the rapper, whose real name is Jeffery Lamar Williams, took part in gang activity on or between May 12, 2018 and May 8, 2022.

Young Thug. Credit: Suzi Pratt/WireImage

As reported by Rolling Stone, on Friday (June 7), Kenneth ‘Lil Woody’ Copeland, who is also an alleged associate of YSL, was arrested on the stand after refusing to give evidence on behalf of the prosecution.

A member of rival gang YFN is alleged to have robbed Copeland at a nightclub in Atlanta in January 2015, which then escalated into a shooting war that allegedly resulted in the drive-by murder of Donovan ‘Nut’ Thomas days later.


Copeland had been expected to be a key witness in the trial. Defence attorney Max Schardt said “his credibility is the crux of this case, he’s the lynchpin of the case”.

Young Thug’s case has been significantly notable for the use of his rap lyrics to accuse him of his YSL gang affiliation in trial. Using lyrics in criminal trials has been broadly criticised “as a convenient way to inject racial bias and confusion into the criminal justice process.”

In January, this included the use of Snoop Dogg‘s Super Bowl performance as key evidence, to demonstrate that Young Thug is solely an entertainer, not a gang member. His attorney Brian Steel showed Snoop’s crip walk dance (associated with the Crips) to prove that gang culture is embedded into rap culture and did not necessarily imply gang affiliation.

Previously, videos of tennis superstar Serena Williams doing the crip walk at the Wimbledon Championships have been shown to prove the same point.


For a primer on why using rap lyrics as evidence is unjust, read NME‘s report on UK-based movement Art Not Evidence, who are campaigning for the restriction of rap lyrics as evidence. We heard from one of Young Thug’s key witness experts, Dr Erik Nielsen, along with other industry experts to understand how rap lyrics have been used to create hundreds of years of injustice against young Black men.