Fulton County D.A. on Criticism of Using Rap Lyrics in Cases: ‘People Can Continue to Be Angry About It’

·2 min read

During a press conference about a recent 220-count indictment against 26 defendants in connection with a string of home invasions and robberies, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis addressed the ongoing criticism facing the use of art in criminal cases.

Asked around the 8:15 mark in the video above about the latest indictment (which mentions lyrics from several videos) and the recent moves regarding legislation aimed at limiting the use of creative expression in court, Willis said she would “welcome an opportunity” to speak with Rep. Hank Johnson, whose RAP Act made headlines earlier this month.

“I don’t think that [the legislation] will be successful,” Willis said Monday, as seen in the 11Alive News footage above. “I think if you decide to admit your crimes over a beat, I’m gon’ use it.”

When asked by another reporter about the widespread criticism against using lyrics in this manner, specifically that she’s “targeting Atlanta’s hip-hop community” through this approach, Willis continued.

“I’m not targeting anyone but, however, you do not get to commit crimes in my county and then decide to brag on it, which you do that for a form of intimidation and to further the gang and not be held responsible,” Willis said before citing a lyric used in this particular indictment. She also said this approach will continue to be utilized in her cases.

“I’m gonna continue to do that,” Willis said. “People can continue to be angry about it. I have some legal advice, don’t confess to crimes on rap lyrics if you do not want them used. Or at least get out of my county.”

The indictment focuses on the alleged actions of a group claimed to be known as Drug Rich, which prosecutors claim started in 2016 and was primarily active outside of the DeKalb County area but “found their way” into Fulton. In Fulton County, the indictment alleges, there were 16 total victims, some of whom were famous. Names mentioned during Monday’s presser included Mariah Carey, Calvin Ridley, and more. The incidents alleged in the indictment are accused of having been perpetrated in multiple regions of Fulton County, including Atlanta.

In addition to legislation being introduced in pursuit of protecting artists’ work from use in criminal cases, including (most recently) a California bill that was last week sent to Gov. Newsom for an expected signature, the issue has spurred an ongoing national conversation. The oft-referenced Protect Black Art petition, as previously reported, has received tens of thousands of signatures and public support from Young Thug and Gunna amid the YSL indictment.

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