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Ural Glanville, Chief Judge of the Superior Court of Fulton County in Georgia. He is presiding over the YSL trial and RICO case against rapper Young Thug.

Atlanta Judicial Circuit Chief Judge Ural Glanville. | Source: Superior Court of Fulton County / Superior Court of Fulton County

The long-awaited beginning of the so-called YSL RICO trial against rap star Young Thug finally got underway in Atlanta on Wednesday with an estimated six weeks of prosecutors and defense attorneys selecting members of the jury who will decide the rapper’s fate.

While conventional wisdom would suggest that Young Thug is at the center of the trial, there is one understated figure who is likely all but saying hold my beer at that notion: The judge.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Ural Glanville will be presiding over what is becoming a historic trial, not only because of the nature of the charges but also how prosecutors intend to try it — in part by using Young Thug’s lyrics as purported evidence.

Prosecutors have labeled YSL, the rapper’s music label, as a criminal gang and charged him with crimes ranging from murder and attempted armed robbery to conspiracy to violate the state Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act. Young Thug and 28 members of his YSL record label, including popular rapper Gunna, were arrested in May and charged with RICO-related offenses. Many of them have taken plea deals, leaving just 14 defendants for the trial.

A number of high-profile celebrities have been listed among the possible hundreds of witnesses to testify during the trial.

Glanville has already played a central role in pre-trial proceedings, including granting a motion forcing defense lawyers to withhold witnesses’ contact information from their clients after prosecutors cited “numerous threats to kill or harm witnesses,” according to court documents. Most recently, Glanville granted Young Thug’s request to suppress evidence in the trial.

That was last month when Young Thug made his first court appearance in months since he’s been held at Fulton County Jail, Fox 5 Atlanta reported at the time. Young Thug’s lawyers asked Glanville to throw out evidence that police recovered from the rapper’s home following a raid in 2015. The evidence included a cell phone that prosecutors said they planned to introduce at the upcoming trial. But defense lawyers said the evidence was seized without a warrant, rending it an illegal search, a premise with which Glanville agreed and agreed that it could not be used in the trial.

2021 BET Hip Hop Awards - Arrivals

Young Thug pictured in 2021. | Source: Derek White / Getty

On Wednesday morning, Glanville read the 65-count indictment to prospective jurors and informed them of their rights to file for a “hardship” exception that, if approved, would preclude them from serving on the jury. It was not immediately clear whether any jurors were selected on Wednesday, but ABC News reported that a second group of potential jurors was expected in Fulton County Superior Court on Thursday.

Who is Judge Ural Glanville?

Glanville, the chief judge of the Fulton County Superior Court, has a wealth of experience on the bench and has served as a judge in Fulton County in various capacities for nearly three decades. He is also the current chief judge for the Atlanta Judicial Circuit Court.

Prior to those esteemed positions, Glanville got his bachelor’s degree and JD from the University of Georgia before earning his master’s in strategic studies from the United States Army War College. Speaking of the army, Glanville was also previously brigadier general and chief judge of the United States Army Court of Criminal Appeals.

Glanville was named chief judge for the Atlanta Judicial Circuit Court in October and harkened back to his military background to describe how he presides over cases. He also said he places a heavy emphasis on how prepared lawyers are in his courtroom.

“Judges always have work to do. The only thing I can kind of control is my schedule,” Glanville told Law.com. “But if you cheat me out of a place card holder because you’re not ready, then I think most judges get annoyed because [we] can’t bring somebody else into that place and space to help them resolve their matter.”

Glanville added: “The less you have done, the less likely it is that I’m going to continue your case. I’ll never bet against myself. If you tell me well in advance, ‘Judge, there’s a possibility we’re not going to be able to make this mark,’ and you tell me why, well, that allows me to maybe back up your case with four or five other cases and not bet against myself.”

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