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Young Thug Trial - Key Witness Gets Arrested After Pleading the Fifth During His Testimony

AI Depiction of Young Thug Trial

The highly publicized RICO Trial of rapper Young Thug, also known as "Thugger," took a dramatic turn on Friday, June 7th, 2024. The trial, which has captivated audiences worldwide, saw a key prosecution witness, Kenneth Copeland (aka rapper Lil Woody), arrested on the stand and held in contempt of court.

Key Developments


Before the jury entered the courtroom, Copeland’s attorney, John Melnick, announced that his client intended to invoke his Fifth Amendment right, refusing to testify. Melnick emphasized that Copeland had repeatedly informed the DA's office of his reluctance to cooperate.


However, Fulton County Chief Superior Court Judge Ural Glanville reminded Copeland of an immunity order protecting his testimony from being used against him. Glanville warned that failure to testify would lead to contempt of court and likely jail time.


“You are required to testify, so if you don’t testify the state is probably going to ask me to jail you and I’m probably going to do that,” Glanville asserted.


Once the jury was present, Copeland took the stand but refused to provide straightforward answers. When asked his age, he replied, “I’m grown. I’m an adult.” Upon further questioning, he invoked the Fifth Amendment again, prompting Judge Glanville to order his arrest. Copeland was taken into custody after the lunch break.


Understanding Use Immunity


Use immunity provides legal protection to a witness, ensuring that their testimony, and any evidence derived from it, cannot be used against them in a subsequent criminal case. This type of immunity is essential for compelling witnesses to testify without the fear of self-incrimination. It differs from transactional immunity, which offers broader protection by covering the witness from prosecution for offenses related to their testimony entirely.


Use immunity is defined as:

A guarantee given by prosecutors to a witness, which ensures that the witness's testimony and any information derived directly or indirectly from it cannot be used against the witness in any criminal case, except for perjury or contempt of court based on their testimony.

Background on Use Immunity


Use Immunity is often employed in complex criminal cases, such as gang-related trials, where witnesses may have involvement in the crimes being prosecuted. By granting use immunity, prosecutors can obtain crucial testimony from witnesses who might otherwise invoke their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. This testimony can be pivotal in securing convictions against primary defendants involved in organized crime or other serious offenses.


Ensuring Understanding of Immunity Orders


When a court grants use immunity through an order, the witness is compelled to testify, and the agreement does not require the witness's voluntary acceptance or signature. However, the judge must ensure that the witness understands the immunity order and its implications. This process includes:


  1. Explaining the Order: The judge must explain to the witness that their testimony is protected under the use immunity order and cannot be used against them in future prosecutions, except for perjury or contempt of court.

  2. Confirming Understanding: The Judge, as a public servant, must verify that the witness understands the terms and consequences of the immunity order.


Protections Related to Testimonial Agreements


The principles governing these requirements can be found in various legal precedents and rules, such as:


  • Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure - Rule 11: Although it addresses plea agreements on the Federal Level (similar rule in most states), its principles on ensuring understanding are relevant. In most cases, the Court must also ensure that the Agreement was Knowingly, Voluntarily and Intelligently entered Into by Defendant. [Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure - Rule 11]

  • Hoffa v. United States, 385 U.S. 293 (1966): This case discusses informed consent related to testimony agreements. [Hoffa v. United States]

Lil Woody's Arrest: A Result of His Lack of Understanding of Use Immunity?


In the Young Thug trial, Kenneth Copeland (aka 'Lil Woody') was granted use immunity by the Fulton County District Attorney’s office through a court order. This compelled him to testify despite his reluctance. His concerns expressed in court, which were along the lines of "What if I say something that implicates me? Then the prosecution will use it against me," indicate a lack of understanding of the immunity's protections.

This scenario suggests that Copeland may not have fully understood his rights and the protections offered by the immunity order. The judge, upon hearing such concerns, should ensure that the witness comprehends the terms and protections provided by the immunity order.


Fundamental Rights > Prosecution's Desperate Attempt to Compel Testimony


The Court's power to grant Use Immunity through an Order, without the witness voluntarily agreeing to its terms, poses a significant threat to our 5th Amendment rights. This coercive use of power, as seen in the YSL Trial involving key witness, Copeland, AKA 'Lil Woody', forces individuals to choose between self-incrimination and incarceration, effectively stripping away their 5th Amendment rights. Copeland’s experience reveals a critical flaw in the judicial process: the failure to ensure that witnesses fully understand their rights and the protections supposedly afforded by use immunity. This lack of comprehension not only endangers the individual’s Constitutional protections but also erodes the integrity of our legal system. We must recognize the dangerous precedent set by such actions and advocate for stringent measures to protect our Constitutional Rights. The sanctity of the 5TH Amendment is at stake, and it is imperative that we demand accountability and transparency in the application of Use Immunity Orders to protect the principles of justice and liberty upon which our nation is founded.


Relevant Videos, Comments, & More

Lil Woody's Interrogation Video: In 2021, Copeland was arrested in Fulton County after a traffic stop uncovered a weapon on him. Copeland, already a convicted felon, could have been facing a 10-year jail sentence for having the weapon, but over the course of a three-hour interrogation, Copeland told detectives about several crimes that had happened and were about to occur. In the video (which was leaked to the media), Copeland also expressed a willingness to help get a supposed confession from Young Thug. Watch the Video Here.



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