Fannie Willis’s lawyers get a new warning from the judge

Prosecutors from Fulton County District Attorney Fannie Willis’ office received a new warning from the judge overseeing the Young Slime Life trial.

Determined to get to the bottom of the information leak, Judge Oral Glanville ordered a hearing for all parties present during the meeting on Monday.

In an order issued Tuesday, Glanville asked Fulton County prosecutors, witness Lil Woody (real name Kenneth Copeland), and the witness’s attorney, Kayla Bumpus, to appear at a hearing on June 25 and show cause why they “should not be held in contempt of court.” Disclosing information from external conversation to members of the defense counsel.”

This is the latest development in the conflict between the judge and defense attorney Brian Steele.

On Monday, Steele, who represents Grammy Award-winning rapper Young Thug at trial, objected to the private meeting, accused prosecutors of witness tampering and noted that none of the defense attorneys in the case knew about it.

Young Thug is among 28 defendants charged by Willis on gang-related charges in 2022. He has pleaded not guilty.

Fulton County DA Fani Willis holds a news conference in Atlanta, Georgia, on August 14, 2023. Judge Oral Glanville ordered prosecutors from Willis’ office to appear at a contempt hearing on June 25.

Christian Monterrosa/AFP

“If that’s true, that would mean coercion, witness intimidation, and unilateral communications, which we have a constitutional right to be in,” Steele said.

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This revelation prompted the judge to ask Steele to reveal how he knew what was said in the judge’s chambers. When Steele refused to reveal his source, Glanville held the lawyer in contempt of court and sentenced him to 20 days in jail.

In Tuesday’s order, Glanville said that if any of the Fulton County prosecutors who attended the meeting, Copeland, or Bumpus did not show cause, he would direct the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office to arrest them as well.

The Atlanta legal community rallied behind Steele. Dozens of criminal defense attorneys arrived at court Monday afternoon to show their support and Ashley Merchant, who heads the state Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, defended Steele before Glanville.

Merchant also rose to national prominence earlier this year as the attorney who exposed Willis’ affair with special prosecutor Nathan Wade.

On Monday, Merchant told Glanville that it was his duty to inform defense counsel of the existence of ex parte communications, and that the main gist of Steele’s argument was that he “didn’t have to learn it from wherever he learned it.” “.

According to the Georgia Code of Judicial Conduct, “Judges may not initiate, permit, or consider ex parte communications, or consider other communications presented to them outside the presence of the parties or their counsel, regarding a pending proceeding or impending matter, subject to the following exceptions.”

It also provides that when the meeting does not address substantive issues, the judge must “immediately…notify all other parties of the substance of the ex parte communication, and give the parties an opportunity to respond.”