A Bright Side For Young Thug? Judge Says He Can Keep Using His Own Attorney

A Bright Side For Young Thug? Judge Says He Can Keep Using His Own Attorney

Although Young Thug lost his bid to be released from jail on Thursday, he also quietly won a victory: A judge ruled that the rapper could continue to be represented by his “irreplaceable” longtime attorney, rejecting (for now) arguments from prosecutors about serious conflicts of interest.

The Fulton County District Attorney’s office claimed that Brian Steel, a prominent Atlanta-area criminal defense lawyer, should be disqualified because he represents some of the other 27 alleged gang members named in the sweeping criminal case. Steel and another lawyer argued back that Young Thug should not be deprived of his “chosen counsel” as he fights for his life in court.

In a ruling Thursday – issued hours before he denied bond to the rapper at the same hearing – Judge Ural Glanville sided with Steel. Despite “strong concerns” that a conflict of interest might rear its head later in the case, the judge ruled that those fears were only “speculative” in the early stages of the legal battle.

“I understand about the serious potential for conflict,” the judge wrote. “I don’t think that we have that yet as to Mr. Steel.”

In an indictment unveiled last month, prosecutors claim Young Thug (Jeffery Williams), Gunna (Sergio Kitchens) and 26 others spent the last decade operating a violent street gang called “Young Slime Life” – allegedly the darker alter-ego of their YSL Records label. The case, built on the state’s RICO statute, includes accusations of murder, carjacking, armed robbery, drug dealing and illegal firearm possession against various YSL members.

In that case, Steel only represents Young Thug. But the DA’s office says that he also currently represents co-defendant Damone Blalock in a separate murder case, and that he previously repped defendants Martinez Arnold and Quantavious Grier in other cases.

At the root of their effort to disqualify Steel is a concern that Young Thug and other defendants might eventually develop “divergent interests” – a fancy way of saying that other indicted gang members might later want to flip on Young Thug and cooperate with prosecutors in return for leniency.

If Steel represents both Young Thug and other defendants, the DA’s office says the attorney might have an incentive to block such deals to protect Thug, who they claim is the leader of YSL – or that prosecutors would be wary of offering such plea deals first place.

“If defendants in this indictment wish to cooperate with prosecution and provide testimony against other defendants in that indictment, we are willing to offer deals,” prosecutor Elizabeth Rosenwasser told the judge at Thursday’s hearing. “Our concern is that as a leader of the gang, maybe some of these individuals will be influenced.”

Firing back was Brandon Bullard, an attorney representing Steel, who argued that such concerns were merely speculative – and that the real harm would be depriving Young Thug of his “chosen counsel” at the moment he needed him most. Bullard said Steel had represented the rapper for almost a decade and could not simply be replaced by another “competent” defense attorney.

“We have to talk about what Mr. Williams loses,” Bullard said. “He loses an excellent lawyer, one who he believes to be the best of the best, one who has known him for ten years, one who has an expertise about his life and affairs that is simply irreplaceable.”

Steel himself also briefly argued for himself, saying that removing him from the case would be a grave injustice: “I have been with Mr. Williams for countless days, weeks, months and hours. I know his entire life,” Steel said. “That is the bond of an attorney-client relationship.”

Ultimately, those arguments were enough to sway Judge Glanville not to disqualify Steel, meaning he can continue to represent Young Thug in the case. But the judge hinted that the issue was not permanently resolved, and that future plea-deal talks could lead to a less hypothetical conflict of interest.

“I am putting all counsel on notice that there is a strong possibility that, given discussion that may be had in the future, this may require re-evaluation,” the judge said. “I do have some really strong concerns [and] the potential for divergent interests is great. That’s where I think we may have some issues in the future.”

A Bright Side For Young Thug? Judge Says He Can Keep Using His Own Attorney Although Young Thug lost his bid to be released from jail on Thursday, he also quietly won a victory: A judge ruled that the rapper could continue to be represented by his “irreplaceable” longtime attorney, rejecting (for now) arguments from prosecutors…