Gunna released from prison after pleading guilty to RICO charge in YSL case

Gunna was arrested in an indictment that also led to the arrest of Young Thug.

December 14, 2022, 4:49 PM

Atlanta rapper Gunna was released from a Georgia prison on Wednesday after pleading guilty to one charge of conspiring to violate the state's Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.

"I have chosen to end my own RICO case with an Alford plea and end my personal ordeal by publicly acknowledging my association with YSL," the rapper said in a written statement provided to ABC News on Wednesday by his attorney Steve Sadow. "An Alford plea in my case is the entry of a guilty plea to the one charge against me, which is in my best interest, while at the same time maintaining my innocence toward the same charge."

An Alford plea is a negotiated agreement in which a defendant maintains their innocence but acknowledges that the prosecution's evidence would likely lead to a guilty verdict.

YSL is allegedly an Atlanta street gang, which started in late 2012 and "claims affiliation with the national Bloods gang," according to charging documents.

According to the indictment, among the objectives of the alleged RICO conspiracy was "preserving, protecting and enhancing the reputation, power and territory of the enterprise through acts of racketeering activity including murder, assault and threats of violence."

Gunna added that while he has "agreed to be truthful," he was not interviewed and did not cooperate with prosecutors in this case, which involves 27 other individuals, including hip-hop star Young Thug, who is facing eight charges as a part of the same RICO indictment.

PHOTO: In this May 7, 2022, file photo, Gunna attends the TAG Heuer Miami Prix at Jungle Plaza in Miami, Fla.
In this May 7, 2022, file photo, Gunna attends the TAG Heuer Miami Prix at Jungle Plaza in Miami, Fla.
John Parra/Getty Images, FILE

"While I have agreed to always be truthful, I want to make it perfectly clear that I have NOT made any statements, have NOT been interviewed, have NOT cooperated, have NOT agreed to testify or be a witness for or against any party in the case and have absolutely NO intention of being involved in the trial process in any way," Gunna said in the written statement.

As part of the negotiated Alford plea, Gunna was initially sentenced to five years with one year served, according to Atlanta ABC affiliate WSB, which was present in the courtroom. A judge commuted the one-year sentence to time served and suspended the four-year remaining balance subject to conditions, including 500 hours of community service, per WSB.

The rapper, whose legal name is Sergio Kitchens, has been denied bond three times since his arrest in May in a case that sparked a national debate about the controversial use of rap lyrics as evidence in criminal cases.

He was one of 28 individuals named in a sweeping grand jury indictment that also led to the arrest of hip-hop star Young Thug, who is facing eight charges in this case. According to the Fulton County District Attorney's Office, which is prosecuting this case, the people named in the indictment are allegedly associated with the Young Slime Life gang that prosecutors claim Young Thug founded in 2012.

But YSL, which is also the acronym for "Young Stoner Life," is the name of the rapper's label -- an imprint of 300 Entertainment. The label is not named in the indictment.

"When I became affiliated with YSL in 2016, I did not consider it a 'gang'; more like a group of people from metro Atlanta who had common interests and artistic aspirations," Gunna said in the statement on Wednesday.

"My focus of YSL was entertainment -- rap artists who wrote and performed music that exaggerated and 'glorified' urban life in the Black community," he added.

"I love and cherish my association with YSL music, and always will. I look at this as an opportunity to give back to my community and educate young men and women that 'gangs' and violence only lead to destruction."

Prior to pleading guilty, his trial was set for January 2023 and his attorney previously told ABC News that "the indictment falsely portrays [Gunna's] music as part of criminal conspiracy."

PHOTO: Young Thug attends the 2021 BET Hip Hop Awards at Cobb Energy Performing Arts Center on Oct. 1, 2021 in Atlanta.
Young Thug attends the 2021 BET Hip Hop Awards at Cobb Energy Performing Arts Center on Oct. 1, 2021 in Atlanta.
Derek White/WireImage via Getty Images

Young Thug, a Grammy-winning rapper whose legal name is Jeffrey Lamar Williams, was initially charged with one count each of conspiring to violate the state's RICO Act and participating in criminal street gang activity and was later charged with an additional count of participating in street gang activity, three counts of violating the Georgia controlled substances act, possession of a firearm while committing a felony and possession of a machine gun.

He pleaded not guilty.

"Mr. Williams has committed no crime whatsoever," his attorney Brian Steel told ABC News.

Steel filed a motion earlier this month asking a Georgia court to prevent prosecutors from using the rapper's lyrics as evidence against him when his case goes to trial next year.

The motion filed by Steel argues, in part, that the use of lyrics in this case is "racist" and violates his client's constitutional rights to free speech and due process "and cannot be used as evidence of crime if they are simply connected to music/freedom of expression/freedom of speech/poetry."

The office of Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, which is prosecuting this case, filed a motion in response, urging the court to permit the use of lyrics in this case and requesting a hearing on the matter. The hearing is set to take place Thursday.