ASAP Rocky verdict to be announced on Wednesday

On Wednesday, a Swedish criminal court will present its verdict against American rap artist Rakim Mayers, aka Asap Rocky, who stood trial two weeks ago in Stockholm.

Mayers and two co-defendants pleaded not guilty due to self-defence.  Swedish law dictates that self-defence, or nödvärn, must occur as an immediate or near-immediate response to violence and that it must be proportionate in order to be “defensible” — put simply, a punch for a punch.

Mayers was arrested a few days after the alleged June 30 assault and kept in custody during the three-week police investigation and the subsequent three-day trial. As his case had caught the attention of the US president, who tried to intervene, the unusually high-profile proceedings came under intense media scrutiny at home and abroad.

In court in late July, neither party disputed that the 19-year-old plaintiff had followed and approached Mayers’ entourage several times, which video evidence supported. According to Mayers, the young man then attacked his bodyguard – an alleged action not caught on tape and which the plaintiff has denied.

At that point, Mayers grabbed and hurled the teenager to the ground, ran up to him and along with two members of his entourage delivered what in a video appeared to be kicks and punches.

Mayers was detained a few days later after performing at a festival in Stockholm. A judge granted the prosecutor’s remand request and the artist remained in custody until and during the trial — the Swedish legal system has no bail system.

Charges were brought after a three-week investigation that produced a 522-page preliminary police report, including forensic evidence, medical records, witness statements and mobile phone messages.

The question of self-defence dominated the three-day proceedings that began in late July. With no available video of events just prior to Mayers throwing the plaintiff to the ground, the court had to weigh conflicting statements against each other. The plaintiff denied the claim that he had attacked the bodyguard and said Mayers’ actions were unprovoked.

The proceedings also focussed on the plaintiff’s claim that he had been hit over the head with a glass bottle just before being thrown to the ground. Legal experts told Swedish Radio that the use of a glass bottle could lead to a conviction for aggravated assault, which is punishable by two to six years in prison, rather than assault.

The lesser crime of assault, for which Mayers stood trial, carries a maximum two-year sentence, but Swedish judges rarely opt for the harshest punishment. Last year, about three in four assault convictions led to a suspended sentence. Paying a fine is customary.

The trial was unusually tense by Swedish standards. The chairman of the court — the presiding judge who along with three lay judges deliberate to reach a verdict — interrupted proceedings several times to scold the lawyers for being out of line.

The trial came under intense scrutiny by both local and foreign media. In part because of Mayers’ fame, in part because Mayers’ arrest caught the attention of American celebrities as well as the US president, Donald Trump.

Trump’s attempt at intervention - and to post bail in a country that has no bail system - lead to an explanation from the Swedish prime minister, Stefan Löfven, that Swedish laws and customs prevent elected officials from meddling with the justice system. Carl Bildt, a former prime minister, penned an op-ed in the Washington Post explaining that such interference would lead to a Swedish politician being “kicked out of office”.

The American president’s decision to dispatch a special envoy for hostage affairs, who sat with Mayers’ family in court, further stoked media attention.

Our journalism is based on credibility and impartiality. Swedish Radio is independent and not affiliated to any political, religious, financial, public or private interests.
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