Young Thug trial: Attorney Brian Steel held in contempt, ordered stay in Fulton County Jail

Attorney Brian Steel was held in contempt of court Monday afternoon and later sentenced to time in jail during the Young Thug, YSL RICO trial in Fulton County.

The incident unfolded after Steel, who is one of the attorneys for Jeffery Williams (Young Thug), approached the bench following the lunch recess, revealing his knowledge of an ex parte conversation that took place before court on Monday morning.

This conversation, which involved the judge, prosecutors, and witness Kenneth "Lil Woody" Copeland, reportedly included Copeland's admission to killing Donovan "Nut" Thomas Jr.


Kenneth "Lil Woody" Copeland

Judge Glanville demanded to know how Steel obtained this information, but Steel refused to disclose his source.

The judge gave Steel five minutes to reconsider, threatening him with contempt of court and then stormed from the courtroom.

When the judge returned and Steel still refused to divulge the source, he was declared in contempt and ordered into custody.

Before Steel was removed, several other attorneys demanded a mistrial. Additionally, Steel told Judge Glanville that removal deprived his client, Young Thug, of his right to counsel and again requested a mistrial.

After another break, Steel was allowed to return to the courtroom to participate in the remainder of the day's proceedings. However, Judge Glanville made it clear that if Steel did not reveal his source by 5 p.m., he would remain in custody for being in contempt of the court.

Judge Glanville and Ashleigh Merchant went back and forth about which contempt Steel should be held in, and whether a mistrial needed to be called or another judge should be invited to preside over the case before he called for another five-minute break at 6:30 p.m.

The judge re-entered the courtroom just after 7:30 p.m. and asked Steel to stand next to his attorneys.

He said that he would be holding Steel in criminal contempt and ordered him to be held at the Fulton County Jail for no more than 20 days. He is to report to the jail every weekend for the next 10 weekends.

Steel said he would be making a appeal, but in the case that it doesn't take, and he's not granted bond, he asked the judge whether he spend his 20 days in the jail with Young Thug to help him prepare for court.

The judge said he was not opposed, and said he would speak to the Fulton County sheriff to see if he could help make arrangements.

FOX 5 Atlanta spoke to Tom Church, a trial lawyer, who shared his professional opinion regarding the judge's ruling.

"If a judge asks a question you’ve got to answer," said Church. "At the same time, Mr. Steel had a right to attorney-client privilege. Basically, the information he obtained was confidential and if he discloses that information, he could face bar sanctions. So what is an attorney to do?"

Church said he felt Glanville's ruling was a case of overreach because of the unique circumstances.

Court is expected to resume at 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday.

What is contempt of court?

At the very basic level, contempt is essentially acknowledging disrespect or disobedience in a court of law. It's important to note that a person can be held in contempt for an offense that occurred inside or outside a courtroom.

For example, a parent could be held in contempt for not paying court-ordered child support.

There are two types: criminal and civil.

Criminal contempt is when someone intentionally obstructs justice, like threatening a witness or judge or hiding evidence.

Civil contempt is when someone causes a disruption in the courtroom. Usually, a judge will issue a warning first if someone is being rude or disrespectful. If the behavior continues, they are able to hold the person in contempt.

Refusing to obey a court order, like child support or even alimony, is also a version of civil contempt.

The penalties for contempt include fines, paying for the opposite party's attorneys' fees, or even jail time.

Young Thug Trial Day 88: Kenneth Copeland testifies

This development occurred on the same day that Kenneth Copeland, also known as Lil Woody, finally testified.

Copeland, who had been arrested the previous Friday for invoking his Fifth Amendment right, was brought into the courtroom shortly before noon on Monday.

He still appeared to be reluctant to testify and his evasive answers ranged from uncertainty about his birthdate to claiming memory issues regarding his children's ages and his arrest record. When asked to identify Shannon Stillwell in court, Copeland initially claimed vision problems, taking a long time to look around before misidentifying others as Stillwell.

During questioning, Copeland told the prosecutor that he wasn't "cool" with Shannon as a kid but that he would "go out with anyone, even you."

Copeland also complained about being hot during court and asked the judge if he could remove his jail uniform. 

Who is Kenneth Copeland?

Copeland, who is a convicted felon, was arrested in Fulton County in October 2021 with a loaded gun in the car he was driving.

After his arrest, Copeland reportedly gave police information about several past and future crimes. Copeland also indicated that he would help get a confession from Young Thug.

Video of his interview with police was leaked to the media.

Young Thug's attorney, Brian Steel, immediately filed for a mistrial after Copeland's arrest. However, the judge denied the motion. 

What are the charges Young Thug faces?

A Fulton County grand jury indicted Young Thug in May 2022, and more charges were added in a subsequent indictment in August of that year. The second indictment accuses Young Thug and 27 other people of conspiring to violate Georgia’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, known as RICO. The rapper is also accused of participation in criminal street gang activity, as well as drug and gun charges.

Prosecutors say Young Thug and two other people co-founded a violent criminal street gang in 2012 called Young Slime Life, or YSL, which they say is associated with the national Bloods gang. The indictment says Young Thug "made YSL a well-known name by referring to it in his songs and on social media."

In addition to specific charges, the August indictment includes a wide-ranging list of 191 acts that prosecutors say were committed between 2013 and 2022 as part of the alleged conspiracy to further the gang’s interests.

Included in that list is an allegation that Young Thug threatened in July 2015 to shoot a security guard who was trying to get him to leave an Atlanta-area mall. The indictment also says Young Thug rented a silver Infiniti sedan that was used in the killing of a rival gang member named Donovan "Nut" Thomas. And, on numerous occasions, he and others are alleged to have possessed various illegal drugs that they intended to distribute.

Who is on trial with Young Thug?

The other defendants still facing trial include Marquavius Huey, Deamonte Kendrick (known as Yak Gotti), Quamarvious Nichols, Rodalius Ryan and Shannon Stillwell.

The other defendants who have already pleaded guilty to various charges prior to jury selection include Gunna, whose given name is Sergio Kitchens; Young Thug's older brother, Quantavious Grier (Unfoonk); Trontavious Stephens (Tick); and Antonio Sledge (Mounk Tounk).