Young Thug, Trump Vs. Georgia’s RICO Act | Crooked Media
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November 27, 2023
What A Day
Young Thug, Trump Vs. Georgia’s RICO Act

In This Episode

  • Israel and Hamas both agreed on Monday to extend the current pause in fighting for another two days. Hamas released another 11 hostages as part of the deal, and in exchange Israel released 33 more Palestinians being held in prison.
  • The long-awaited trial of rap artist Young Thug started on Monday in Atlanta. The trial has implications far beyond the music industry because Young Thug and his co-defendants are being prosecuted by Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis and have been charged under Georgia’s RICO statute, just like former President Donald Trump.
  • And in headlines: Vermont police arrested a suspect who they say shot and injured three college students of Palestinian descent, Amazon workers around the world walked off the job to demand better pay and working conditions during Cyber Monday, and Merriam-Webster announced 2023’s word of the year.

 

Show Notes:

 

 

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TRANSCRIPT

 

Josie Duffy Rice: It’s Tuesday, November 28th. I’m Josie Duffy Rice. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: And I’m Tre’vell Anderson and this is What a Day. The pod that reminds you that if you enjoy recreational drugs, don’t recreate with them at Disneyland. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah. Police arrested a man at Disneyland on Sunday who was on something because he got naked and then on foot wandered around it’s a small world. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Mmm. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Look, that’s the only way to get through that ride. That ride is a nightmare. [laughter] [music break] On today’s show, the racketeering trial started against rapper Young Thug. And we explain what it could mean for the racketeering trial against Trump. Plus, Merriam-Webster announced 2023’s word of the year. And thankfully, it’s not rizz or dystopian. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: But first, an update on the war in Gaza. On Monday, Israel and Hamas both agreed to extend the current pause in fighting for another two days after it was set to end Monday U.S. time. As part of this extension, Hamas released another 11 hostages, all women and children, into Israel in exchange for the release of 33 more Palestinian civilians, all women and children, teens to be exact, that were being held in Israeli prisons. Add these numbers to those already released on both sides. And Hamas has now released almost 70 of the estimated 240 Israelis that were kidnapped over a month ago. And Israel has released more than 100 Palestinian women and children who are detained in their prisons. Here’s some audio from Reuters of folks in the streets of the West Bank celebrating as some of those freed Palestinian prisoners returned home. [sounds of cars honking and people chanting and cheering and clapping]

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Watching people those videos of people coming home, both in Israel and Palestine, a lot of them children. It’s just so moving to see families reunited and just a bright spot in what feels like over a month of tragedy. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: The Biden administration has been very hands on in helping to support the brokering of the original deal and this extension. What did they have to say about this two day extension? 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Well, according to White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby, President Biden was actually, quote, “deeply engaged” over the Thanksgiving break in these negotiations. And so they’re pleased with this development. Biden himself also said in a statement that they’re taking, quote, “full advantage of the pause” to ensure more humanitarian aid gets into Gaza. The administration has expressed a desire for the pause to continue, but they place that responsibility at the feet of Hamas. Biden said, quote, “We will not stop until all of the hostages held by Hamas terrorists are released.” 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: It is good that the fighting has stopped, but obviously it’s only temporary. What can you tell us about? Obviously, there have been calls across the world for a cease fire or longer lasting pause at least. Um. So what can you tell us about that? 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah, I mean, I think those same calls continue even, you know, in light of the extension. Palestinians specifically are hopeful for a permanent ceasefire to come out of this current pause. In addition to a reported almost 15,000 Palestinians who’ve been killed in this war. The United Nations says 1.6 million people have been displaced as a result of the conflict. And as documented in reporting from Al Jazeera, people really just want to go back to their homes no matter its current condition. One Palestinian woman who’s been living in a tent with 25 members of her family throughout the last few weeks of this conflict told them, quote, “I’m willing to live in a tent, but on the ruins of my home, where I don’t need to ask anyone for help. I want to go back to bury my siblings who are still under the rubble of their own destroyed homes.” 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Devastating to imagine losing all of that. Thank you so much, Tre’vell. Let’s move on to a local story we are also covering. Yesterday was the first day of the trial of the rap crew YSL. Headed by the artist Young Thug, which is happening where I am in Atlanta. This trial has implications far beyond the music industry because Young Thug and his co-defendants are being prosecuted by Fulton county DA Fani Willis, just like former President Trump and have been charged under Georgia’s anti racketeering or RICO statute. Again, just like Trump. The trial then is of particular interest, not just to people here in Atlanta, but nationally, because it could tell us a lot about how Willis will present a case against the ex-president and his circle. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Okay. So this is going to get interesting, I’m sure. And we’ve talked about this trial a little on this show. We know how you feel generally about Georgia’s RICO statute, Josie. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Me? 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Yes, you um [laugh] but remind us what this case is about, please. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: So the question here is really about whether this group of defendants are members of the same gang or are basically like friends/acquaintances involved with the same record label. The difference between these two things makes a huge difference. Prosecutors, unsurprisingly, say they are all part of the same gang and therefore can all be held responsible for things that the other, quote unquote “gang members” did, including murder, and particularly the murder of a man named Donovan Thomas, who was killed in a drive by shooting in 2015. And this is kind of one of my many problems with the RICO statute is that even if everything else is the same, if we conclude they’re gang members, things are illegal that would be legal if they weren’t. So the law is made up Tre’vell and that is [laughter] what I hope everybody takes from me. So this trial has been a long time coming. Young Thug has been in jail awaiting trial for 587 days. That is a long time to sit in a cell, particularly the nightmare jail here in Fulton County when you have not been convicted of a crime. And the case itself could take, quote, “the better part of a year,” according to The New York Times. Jury selection alone took ten months. I personally know multiple people who were called for this jury and not chosen. Everybody in Atlanta knows someone called for this jury. It’s taken forever. So we are like pretty far into this situation and still kind of at the beginning. Right. There’s a very long way to go. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: And kind of wild right, that he has been– 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Kind of crazy.

 

Tre’vell Anderson: –in there for almost 600 days like that’s–

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: With no trial. That’s kind of wild. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: It’s crazy. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Um. But I need to know. I know the people need to know. Are you telling us that Young Thug is charged with murder? 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Young Thug is not charged with murder. Initially, he was just charged with conspiracy to violate George’s RICO act and participation in criminal street gang activity. Both of those charges give me like, heart palpitations. Since then, a few other charges have been added, including illegal gun possession, drug charges, a couple others. But the core of this case is basically this RICO charge, because RICO is like magic for prosecutors. It gives them so much power, including in cases where it’s undeserved. As The New York Times put it, quote, “The law does not require the state to prove that Young Thug knew about or ordered all of the subsequent crimes, only that he was the head of an enterprise that carried them out.” 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Hmm. Okay. So as you said, RICO laws are all about charging those who are allegedly involved in some kind of criminal enterprise. That’s just like Trump and his circle during the 2020 election. But give us some context about how Fani Willis will be using that here. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: It really is kind of an indicator of what’s to come because this is one of the three major RICO cases in Georgia right now. So obviously, there’s this one and then there’s President Trump’s, of course. And then there’s another one that the attorney general is bringing against Cop City activists. And really, you only need to look at these three cases to understand why RICO is dangerous. Right. Because sometimes it can be used to show that powerful people enacted a real conspiracy like, say, Donald Trump trying to overturn an election with his buddies. But other times and in fact, I would say more often, it’s a way for prosecutors to punish a lot of people for the actions of just a few. So it can make murderers out of people who to prosecutors on a mission had nothing to do with said murder, didn’t even know about it. And lots of times, like RICO cases are a tool for prosecutors to get convictions because they charge lots of people. They threaten them with very long jail sentences by basically saying like, maybe you didn’t do this, but your co gang member did it. So we’re going to hold you responsible, too. So now you’re facing an incredibly long prison sentence and it makes it much more likely that you’ll flip, right, that you’ll agree to testify against the others in order to get a better deal or get the charges dropped. So it’s a really useful prosecutorial tool, but it’s not always an ethical one, and it often ends up with people really being punished for things that not only didn’t do, but things they didn’t even know about. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: I feel like if I’m convicted of a crime, I should know that I did the crime or that the crime even happened. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: [laugh] That seems to make sense to me. Um. And I guess yesterday was the first day of the trial. Did anything notable happen? 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Oh, my gosh. It was already a total spectacle and a mess. And I don’t know what the next few months are going to be like because the prosecution. So they started out they used a Jungle Book analogy in their opening statement. Which I’m like the racial overtones are–

 

Tre’vell Anderson: –Glaring. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: –concerning, glaring. They also presented a slideshow of these like 60 slides. All kinds of capitalization, typos, whatever. And they apparently never shared most of these slides with the defense. So immediately the defense called for a mistrial. This is like law school semester one. It’s like you have evidence, you have to share with the other side. [laughter] Already, the defense is calling for a mistrial in a case where it took ten months to seat a jury. So on day one, like, that’s pretty bad. The judge did not grant the mistrial, but he seemed pretty upset that the prosecution violated the rules like that. And he called for this long break in the middle of the day so that the prosecution could fix their presentation. Clear up the typos, ensure the defense had access. It’s not exactly fair that they got access like five minutes before it was presented. But the judge is clearly trying to, like, get this show on the road. And he actually told the prosecution, quote, “You all don’t listen to the court and it’s going to get you all in hot water,” which is like not a great way to start out your first day on a case that’s going to last like a year. You don’t want to make the judge mad. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Mm hmm. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: And it’s really not a way to give confidence to the public that you can handle the Trump case either. Because let me tell you something, you don’t share those slides with the defense in the Trump case? 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Lord. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: We’re not moving on. Right? 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Right. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Okay. Another thing I want to note here is that prosecutors have entered rap lyrics from Young Thug’s music and other rap songs made by other people. Part of the record label, including one from a deceased rapper named Juice Wrld. And this is really, really controversial. There is like an argument that I would agree with that it’s a massive prosecutorial overstep, especially a deceased rapper who can’t testify to the truth of these lyrics. Right. You know, rappers talk all the time about things that aren’t true. The genre itself is boasting. It’s storytelling. It’s building a world. So the inclusion of lyrics as like evidence of a crime, it really raises a lot of questions. And again, I think like this is what makes this case different than the Trump case. And Trump case, prosecutors have him calling up a state official and saying, find me some votes like it’s right there. But when you have like weaker cases where everything is kind of riding on like who is associated with who. Things like rap lyrics can maybe be all you have or they can make a big difference, and that’s when it gets like a lot messier. So that is the latest for now. We will be back after some ads. [music break]

 

[AD BREAK]

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Let’s get to some headlines. 

 

[sung] Headlines. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Police arrested a suspect on Sunday who they say shot and injured three college students of Palestinian descent in Vermont. They charged the 48 year old man with three counts of attempted murder. He pleaded not guilty yesterday and was held without bail. The gunman has been identified, but we will not be naming him here to avoid giving him any additional notoriety. If convicted, the suspect could face life in prison. The shooting is being investigated as a possible hate crime. And it happened over the weekend when a man shot and injured three students, all 20 years old in Burlington, Vermont. They were visiting for Thanksgiving and were staying at the home of a relative. Authorities said they had gone out for a walk around 6:30 p.m. on Saturday when a man approached them and without saying anything, pulled out a handgun and started shooting. Authorities said the young men were speaking a mix of English and Arabic, and two of the three were wearing Palestinian keffiyeh scarves when they were shot. They were all being treated at the University of Vermont Medical Center. And a relative said one of the three young men faces a long recovery due to a spinal injury. Take a listen to what Rich Price, an uncle of one of the shooting victims, had to say during a news conference yesterday afternoon. 

 

[clip of Rich Price] To have them come stay with me for Thanksgiving and have something like this happen speaks to the level of civic vitriol, speaks to the level of hatred that exists in some corners of this country. It speaks to a sickness of gun violence that exists in this country. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: The families of the three students issued a statement yesterday and said in part, quote, “We believe a full investigation is likely to show our sons were targeted and violently attacked simply for being Palestinian.” 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Tens of thousands of leaders from around the globe are heading to Dubai this week to kick off the 28th annual United Nations Climate Change Conference. It’s also known as COP, which stands for Conference of the Parties. Nearly 200 countries agreed to a big climate action treaty in 1992. And diplomats from these nations have been meeting every year since 1995 to assess if they’re on track to meet their climate policy goals. Spoiler alert, they’re not. But some leaked documents published yesterday by the Center for Climate Reporting put a damper on the lead up to this year’s conference. The United Arab Emirates is reportedly planning to use its role as the host, as a platform to lobby foreign government officials for oil and gas deals. Like read the room. Not the place, not the time. In other conference news, the White House said that President Biden will not be attending a World Leaders Cup summit on Friday. But they did not say why. For reference, Biden has attended the summit for the past two years. Again, not a great look, especially since the U.S. ranks as the world’s biggest historical emitter of greenhouse gases that cause global warming. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Amazon workers around the world walked off the job yesterday to demand better pay and working conditions during Cyber Monday, one of the busiest days of the year for online retail shopping. Here in the U.S., Amazon employees left their posts in at least nine states at 26 Amazon facilities. The collective action was led by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Union, which largely represents freight drivers and warehouse workers. Take a listen to Jessie Moreno, an Amazon driver and Teamster organizer who walked off the job in Garner, North Carolina, yesterday, speaking to CBS 17 News. 

 

[clip of Jessie Moreno] It’s extremely important that we continue to spread the word on what’s going on with Amazon’s unfair labor practices. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Meanwhile, Amazon employees in Spain, Italy, Germany and the U.K. joined the action with workers walking off the job for one hour per shift on Cyber Monday. The walkout was so disruptive in Spain that Amazon cut a deal with thousands of its employees at the last minute to get them back to work, promising them increased wages and safer working conditions. And in other labor news, 43,000 public school students in Portland returned to the classroom yesterday after their teachers scored a new tentative labor agreement with their school district. The New Deal includes cost of living adjustments, an extra $4 million for pay raises and more benefits for educators over the next two years. Monday was the first day that kids have been back in school since Halloween. The day before the weeks long teacher strike began.

 

Josie Duffy Rice: In Indonesia, a very important birthday happened over the weekend. A critically endangered Sumatran rhino was born. The male calf was born at a sanctuary in Indonesia’s western island of Sumatra on Saturday. His mother is a seven year old female named Delilah and gave birth to the 55 pound calf ten days earlier than expected. 55 pound preemie. [laughter] I would not be happy. And the yet to be named calf is just the second Sumatran rhino to be born in Indonesia this year. There are fewer than 50 Sumatran rhinos left and the entire population currently lives in Indonesia. They’re legally protected in the country, but they’re threatened by poachers as well as destruction of tropical forest habitat. Delilah and her newborn are reportedly in good condition and the calf is now able to walk. Happy birthday baby rhino. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: [singing] Happy birthday to you. Happy birthday– [laughing]

 

Josie Duffy Rice: That rhino is Black now.

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Listen, right? [laughing] And now for some wordplay. Tis the season when America’s oldest dictionary, Merriam-Webster, picks its word of the year. Josie, you will never guess what they picked this year. I thought it was going to be unprecedented. I feel like we’ve been saying we’ve been living in unprecedented times so much this year. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: So much. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: But they didn’t go with that. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Okay. My guess is delulu. My guess is delulu. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Delulu. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: I would have loved for it to be delulu. Is it?

 

Tre’vell Anderson: It’s not Delulu. Okay. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Oh my God bummer. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Merriam-Webster said that the word of the year is authentic. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Hate it. [laughter]

 

Tre’vell Anderson: So apparently they saw a big increase in online searches for it in 2023. In their announcement on their website, they attributed authentic’s popularity to a few things. The artificial intelligence boom, the spread of misinformation on social media, and the generally blurry lines between what is real and what is fake. They also said, quote, “Although clearly a desirable quality, authentic is hard to define and subject to debate. Two reasons it sends many people to the dictionary.” I would just like to note that I at least don’t think that authentic is hard to define. But I guess for a lot of people it is. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: I also feel like a word of the year should be something we have in spades. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Hmm. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: And I’m like, it feels kind of rude to, like, rub it in our face is like–

 

Tre’vell Anderson: That everybody’s fake. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: There are literally, like, A.I. people like, don’t talk to me about that. That’s rude. That’s like bringing up a sore subject. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Well, the dictionary also listed words that were runner ups to authentic. They included rizz. Deep fake. Coronation, which had a search spike when King Charles the third was crowned in May. Yes, that happened this year. Another runner up was implode, which people searched when the Titanic submersible disappeared back in June. That was also this year. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Look, you said deep fake. And I was like, oh, that’s terrible. But then all the other ones are worse. Like [laughter] rizz, coronation, implode, authentic. All those are worse. I’m going with deep fake. That’s like, the best we have to work with. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: This is what people are Googling and searching over there on Merriam-Webster. And I don’t know what that says about the times that we are living through. But um.

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Well I do want to know who’s on the Merriam-Webster website. I feel like that’s a boomer behavior. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Are you a dictionary.com, girlie? What are you trying to say?

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Yes, of course. I’m a dictionary.com girl. It’s probably not as good, but it’s easy to like I’m going to type in Merriam-Webster. That’s so long. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: I believe the website is m-w.com, but don’t ask me why I know that. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Oh it is? I didn’t even know that. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Don’t ask me why I know that.

 

Josie Duffy Rice: I didn’t know that. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah, don’t it doesn’t matter. It’s fine. Anyway, WAD listeners, we want to hear from you all. What do you think the word of 2023 was? Let us know in our Discord channel. To join the fun, just go to Crooked.com/friends. We may select a few of our faves to feature on the show, but those are the headlines. 

 

[AD BREAK]

 

Tre’vell Anderson: That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe. Leave a review. That baby rhino’s got rizz and tell your friends to listen. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: And if you’re into reading and not just listening to authentic hosts like us, so authentic, What a Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Josie Duffy Rice. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: I’m Tre’vell Anderson. 

 

[spoken together] And let’s give the baby rhino a name. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Young Thug. Name him Young Thug. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Cut it out. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Why not? [laughter] It’s timely. It’s international. It’s artistic. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: So inspired. [music break]

 

Josie Duffy Rice: What a Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lancz, our show’s producer is Itxy Quintanilla. Raven Yamamoto and Natalie Bettendorf are our associate producers, and our showrunner is Leo Duran. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka. 

 

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