US rapper A$AP Rocky will not be in court to hear the verdict in his trial for assault
Stockholm (AFP) - A Stockholm court will rule Wednesday on whether US rapper A$AP Rocky is guilty of assault over a street brawl in a case that has outraged fans and stoked diplomatic tensions.
The 30-year-old rapper, whose real name is Rakim Mayers, was arrested on July 3 following a fight in Stockholm on June 30 in which he and his entourage were embroiled with a 19-year-old plaintiff.
Mayers will not be present in Stockholm for the verdict, which is due at 2 pm (1200 GMT).
Prosecutor Daniel Suneson called for a six-month prison sentence for Mayers and two of his crew, while the defence argued they acted in self-defence and should be acquitted.
Considered a “flight risk”, Mayers was held in custody while the case was investigated and throughout his trial.
But he was released after the close of proceedings on August 2, pending the verdict, and immediately returned to the United States.
Fans and fellow artists campaigned for his release with an online petition called #JusticeForRocky garnering more than 640,000 signatures. Supporters were urged to boycott Swedish brands such as Ikea.
At his first performance following his release on Sunday, in Anaheim in California, the rapper thanked fans and called the experience in Sweden “scary” and “humbling”.
“I need y’all to keep praying for me,” he told the crowd, saying he hoped he would not have to return to serve a jail sentence.
- Rapper felt ‘scared’ -
The artist maintained his innocence, telling the court he acted in self-defence, saying he felt “scared” and that he and his entourage had repeatedly told the plaintiff to leave them alone.
Mayers conceded he threw the man to the ground and “kicked his arm”, but denied the prosecution’s claim that a bottle was used and insisted he only acted after the accuser and his friend began attacking his bodyguard.
US rapper A$AP Rocky is now back in the United States
The plaintiff, a Swedish resident born in Afghanistan, alleged he was attacked by Mayers and his entourage when he followed them to ask about a headphone set broken in an earlier scuffle with the rapper’s bodyguard.
Assault carries a maximum penalty of two years in prison in Sweden.
Suneson called for a six-month sentence, saying Mayers did not seem scared as he had claimed, and there had been no need for self-defence.
His defence lawyer Slobodan Jovicic argued for acquittal and after the trial, he said he did not expect the rapper would need to return to Sweden for any kind of sentence.
“I’m pretty confident he won’t need to serve a single day,” Jovicic told reporters.
Stockholm University criminal law lecturer Dennis Martinsson told news agency TT that even if Mayers is found guilty he might not have to return to Sweden.
Martinsson said Mayers would likely either receive a suspended sentence and a fine or a shorter sentence deemed already served on remand.
- Trump joined calls for release -
In one video clip of the brawl published by US celebrity news outlet TMZ, the rapper can be seen throwing a young man to the ground and aiming several punches at him while he is down.
The court was also shown videos posted on the artist’s Instagram account, purporting to show the lead-up to the scrap.
Mayers appears to repeatedly ask the man and his friend to stop following him and his entourage. The prosecution argued that the Instagram videos were heavily edited.
Much of the trial also focused on whether a bottle was used as the plaintiff suffered cuts that medical examiners said seemed to be from glass.
US President Donald Trump also repeatedly called for his release – drawing complaints of interference from Swedish politicians.
Trump sent US Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs Robert C. O’Brien to attend the trial.
“The president felt they shouldn’t have been detained, they were stalked,” O’Brien told reporters.