Gunna’s Lawyers Call Foul On Witness Tampering Text: ‘Misled the Court’
A day after an Atlanta judge refused to release Gunna from jail, his lawyers made a striking accusation against prosecutors on Friday – claiming an alleged smoking gun text message cited by government lawyers actually had “nothing to do with witness intimidation” and had been used to mislead the court.
At a hearing on Thursday, prosecutors told Judge Ural Glanville that they were in possession of a message in which a co-defendant offered to “whack someone” on Gunna’s behalf. A short while later, the judge denied the rapper bond for a third time, meaning he’ll remain in jail until his January trial.
But in Friday’s filing, Gunna’s lawyers said they’d finally gotten their hands on the message in question – and that it was from June 2020 and “has nothing to do with witness intimidation or obstruction.”
According to the new filing, the actual message reads: “Tell gunna happy c day it’s all love [100 and heart emojis] I’ll still a whack some Bout him.”
“For the state to [argue] that this text is an offer to commit murder (or to threaten or injure a witness in a case that was still two years in the future) aptly illustrates the problem of a hearing by ambush and proffer,” wrote attorney Steve Sadow and Gunna’s other lawyers.
“Respectfully, at each of the bond hearings before the Court, the State has relied on proffers of evidence— never disclosed to Kitchens prior to a hearing — and none of the proffers has panned out,” Sadow wrote.
A spokesman at the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office did not immediately return a request for comment.
Both Gunna (real name Sergio Kitchens) and Young Thug (Jeffery Williams) were indicted in May, along with dozens of others, on accusations that their group YSL was not really a record label called “Young Stoner Life,” but a violent Atlanta street gang called “Young Slime Life.” The charges included allegations of murder, carjacking, armed robbery, drug dealing and illegal firearm possession over the past decade.
The two stars, who strongly deny the charges, have both repeatedly sought to be released on bond ahead of their trials, which are currently scheduled for January. But both have been refused, largely because prosecutors have warned that they might threaten witnesses or otherwise obstruct the case.
Ahead of Thursday’s hearing, Gunna’s lawyers said those warnings had largely been premised on unreliable “proffers” from the government, none of which had later proved to be based on hard proof. They said there was not “a shred of evidence” to support keeping him locked up before he has been proven guilty.
But at the hearing, prosecutor Adriane Love repeatedly cited the supposed “whack” statement by the co-defendant, arguing that it suggested people were willing to murder witnesses for Gunna. She said she was uncertain about whether the message in question had yet been uploaded into court records, but said it would be available by the end of the day if not. Minutes later, Judge Glanville denied bond.
On Friday morning, having seen the text in question, Gunna’s lawyers argued that Love “misstated” the evidence and had thus “misled” Judge Glanville. They put particular emphasis on the date, since it allegedly suggested witness tampering the current criminal case: “The text in question, dated June 14, 2020 — almost two years before the indictment was returned in this case — has nothing to do with witness intimidation or obstruction.”
The new filing did not outright ask the judge to reverse his own decision, but asked Judge Glanville to officially note the actual date and content of the text message, rather than rely on the description offered by prosecutors.
The case against YSL is built around Georgia’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, a state law based on the more famous federal RICO statute that’s been used to target the mafia, drug cartels and other forms of organized crime. Such laws make it easier for prosecutors to sweep up many members of an alleged criminal conspiracy based on many smaller acts that aren’t directly related.
Beyond indicting two of rap’s biggest stars, the case also made waves because it cited their lyrics as supposed evidence of their crimes — a controversial practice that critics say unfairly sways juries and injects racial bias into the courtroom. California recently banned the tactic in that state, but Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis has strongly defended using it against Young Thug and Gunna.
Barring delays — a very real possibility — trials are currently scheduled for early January.