Like many people, I was surprised to learn last week that platinum-selling rapper Young Thug was at the center of a sweeping indictment accusing him and 27 other people of criminal gang activities.
Young Thug, real name Jeffrey Lamar Williams, co-founded Young Slime Life, a violent street gang founded in Atlanta in 2012, prosecutors say. The 56-count indictment includes several felony charges related to racketeering, drugs and weapons.
To bolster his case against Williams, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis used some of his words as evidence.
Williams pleaded not guilty. His lawyers said he was simply exercising his freedom of expression as an artist and that the state was seeking to insinuate criminal conduct from song lyric quotes and social media posts.
On the face of it, using song lyrics as corroborating evidence of criminality is a questionable practice with major implications for the First Amendment. That said, the courts have ruled that the lyrics are admissible evidence, and Willis clearly thinks they can be used to help prove that someone violated state laws on racketeer-influenced and corrupt organizations. (RICO).
But what about tweets?
Don’t forget: Willis’ office is also investigating former President Donald Trump for potential RICO charges stemming from his efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss to Joe Biden in Georgia. And if a song’s lyrics can be used to frame a musician for a potential racketeering charge, shouldn’t the ex-president face similar scrutiny for his conspiratorial and threatening tweets?
Georgia played a pivotal role in Trump’s failed attempt to overturn the election results and stay in power. In January 2021, an audio leak revealed that he had asked Georgian Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” more votes for him to help him win.
But alongside that, Trump’s tweets about Georgia help tell the story of an obsessive loser who has stopped at nothing to stir up a wave of right-wing anger over non-existent voter fraud, in the hopes that outrage would keep him in power as long as he wished.
Days after the 2020 election, when Biden had already been declared the predicted winner, Trump retweeted a message from Georgia Governor Brian Kemp about counting only legal ballots. Trump claimed that meant he was victorious. That’s good news, it means I won! he tweeted. (It’s not.) In December 2020, he tweeted that Kemp should step down, saying he was a filibuster who refuses to admit we won Georgia, BIG! (He didn’t.) Trump also retweeted a post that month from right-wing conspiracy theorist and attorney Lin Wood saying that Raffensperger and Kemp will soon go to jail for baseless allegations they helped to trick Trump into getting re-elected. Trump posted a tweet in January 2021, falsely alleging there was an irregularity with voting machines in Republican strongholds during the Senate special election in Georgia. The tweet claimed that reports were coming out of Georgia’s 12th congressional district that Dominion machines were not working in some Republican strongholds for more than an hour. Ballots are left in locked boxes, hope they count them. These claims were immediately pushed back by Republican election officials in Georgia. In another tweet that month, Trump launched a conspiracy theory about a pile of fraudulent votes being used to steal races from Republicans as vote tallies showed the GOP was on course to lose at least one Senate seat. in special elections. Looks like they’re setting up a big campaign dump against Republican candidates. Waiting to see how many votes they need? he tweeted. It was a lie, of course, but a lie that Trump repeated over and over about the states he lost.
And the tweets only tell part of the story of Trump and his teams in Georgia. Reuters has extensively reported on the Trump campaign’s efforts to scapegoat two black election workers, falsely alleging they fraudulently rejected votes for Trump. And all of these acts followed an anarchic plot to interfere in Georgia’s electoral processes.
No matter how famous you are, how famous you are, if you come to Fulton County, Georgia, and commit crimes…you’re going to become a target and a focus of this district attorney’s office, and we We’re going to prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law,” Willis said at a news conference last week about Williams’ arrest.
For country’s sake, I just hope his definition of gangs goes beyond bands like YSL. The MAGA gang turned out to be the most dangerous of them all.
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