Judge seats jury in Young Thug case after nearly 10-month selection

Georgia prosecutors allege that chart-topper Young Thug, seen here at a New York fashion show in December 2018, leads a criminal street gang (Angela Weiss)
Georgia prosecutors allege that chart-topper Young Thug, seen here at a New York fashion show in December 2018, leads a criminal street gang (Angela Weiss)

The judge in the sprawling US gang conspiracy trial of rapper Young Thug and several others on Wednesday seated a jury after a glacial selection that lasted nearly 10 months, local media said.

Atlanta Judge Ural Glanville swore in 12 jurors and six alternates in the case whose opening arguments are now scheduled to begin November 27.

Five men and 13 women were selected, according to the Atlanta-Journal Constitution. Three of the men and 11 of the women are Black.

The judge moved up the jury seating date by several weeks in order to ensure it met a speedy trial demand filed by the defense.

If a jury had not been seated by November 6, the charges could have been dismissed.

There are still a number of motions due for the court to take up prior to opening statements, including a controversial series on whether rap lyrics are admissable as evidence.

For years, many free speech advocates, civil rights groups, music world figures and legislators have decried that practice as a constitutional violation of expression that criminalizes and punishes artists, most of them of color.

"I think if you decide to admit your crimes over a beat, I'm going to use it," Fani Willis -- the district attorney of Fulton County, who brought the charges -- has said.

- Thug-Trump connection -

The 32-year-old rapper born Jeffery Williams was one of 28 alleged street gang members originally swept up in a May 2022 racketeering indictment. Many of those defendants have since taken plea deals or had their cases severed.

The accusations included myriad predicate offenses that support an overarching conspiracy charge, including murder, assault, carjacking, drug dealing and theft.

The indictment shook the rap world in Atlanta, where Young Thug is considered among the industry's most impactful figures.

The painstaking jury selection process was dotted with courtroom delays and incidents, including the arrest of a defense attorney and the laptop seizure of another, along with scuffles between law enforcement and defendants.

A courtroom deputy was jailed for having an "inappropriate relationship" with a defendant.

And a number of potential jurors have been held in contempt: one was assigned a 30-page essay on the importance of jury service after she traveled to the Dominican Republic on business and missed court.

As jury selection slogged on the case gained renewed attention this summer, after Willis, the district attorney who brought the charges, targeted Donald Trump in the same manner she prosecuted Young Thug.

Willis used Georgia's Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act to charge both the rapper and the former president.

A mountain of discovery and hundreds of potential witnesses mean the trial could last a year once it begins in earnest.