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Gunna released from jail after entering plea deal

By | Published on Thursday 15 December 2022


Gunna was released from jail yesterday after he agreed a plea bargain deal with prosecutors in the criminal case against him, fellow rapper Young Thug and 26 others who were arrested by the authorities in Atlanta in May on gang-related charges. The deal done between prosecutors and Gunna is a special kind of plea bargain in which the accused maintains their innocence but concedes that a guilty verdict in court is highly likely.

All 28 of those arrested back in May were accused of involvement in a gang called Young Slime Life which, it’s alleged, committed murders, shootings and carjackings. The case has proven controversial within the music community because prosecutors are in part relying on the creative output of Gunna and Young Thug as evidence against the two rappers.

Prosecutors using lyrics or music videos made by defendants in criminal cases has been widely criticised by the music industry, because a person’s creative output obviously usually represents a fictionalised or heightened version of their real lives, and therefore a defendant’s music offers no credible insight into that person’s actual conduct.

But, it’s feared, with certain genres of music in particular – and especially rap – jurors are nevertheless prone to assume a defendant’s creative output is somehow rooted in reality.

Therefore, even in a case like this – where prosecutors would argue that YSL was simultaneously a creative collective and a criminal gang – courts need to be very careful about allowing creative output to be used as supposed evidence of criminal activity.

Both to ensure no injustices occur as a result of jurors incorrectly interpreting fiction as reality, and to protect each defendant’s freedom of expression.

In a statement yesterday, Gunna – real name Sergio Kitchens – was keen to distinguish between YSL the collective and YSL the gang. It was the former he became affiliated with in 2016, he said, insisting that he saw the group as consisting of people with “common interests and artistic aspirations … 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. [However] I recognise, accept and deeply regret that my talent and music indirectly furthered YSL the gang to the detriment of my community. YSL as a gang must end”.

The kind of plea deal agreed to by Kitchens is often referred to as an Alford plea. Although pleading guilty, he actually formally maintains his innocence, but accepts that the evidence against him would likely result in a guilty verdict in court. He was sentenced to five years in prison, but with four of those years suspended. The one year jail time remaining was then reduced to the time already served since his arrest in May and an additional 500 hours of community service.

According to WSB-TV Channel 2 in Atlanta, that community service will include 350 hours speaking to young men and women about the “hazards and immorality” of gangs and gang violence. He must also stay away from guns and his co-defendants unless the communication goes through attorneys or his record label.

Stressing the nature of the plea deal he has agreed to – and possibly keen to confirm he has not committed to testify against Young Thug – Kitchens added in his statement: “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”.

Actually, under the deal he will have to testify, if called, in any trials involving other members of YSL. Although he would be able to ‘plead the fifth’ in order to avoid answering questions in court.

For now at least Young Thug remains in jail with his trial set to begin in January.