US Presidential Envoy Sent to Sweden for A$AP Rocky’s Trial

August 1, 2019 Updated: August 1, 2019

American rapper A$AP Rocky pleaded not guilty to assault as his trial in Sweden opened July 30, a month after a street fight that landed him in jail and became a topic of U.S.–Swedish diplomacy.

A$AP Rocky, whose real name is Rakim Mayers, is accused with two others of beating a 19-year-old man in Stockholm on June 30. Prosecutors played video footage in court that shows Mayers throwing a young man to the ground.

Wearing sweatpants and a green T-shirt in court, Mayers, 30, pleaded not guilty to an assault charge that carries a maximum penalty of two years in prison. He says he acted in self-defense.

The Grammy-nominated artist’s ongoing detention in Sweden prompted President Donald Trump to personally intervene on his behalf.

Swedish news agency TT said Trump sent the U.S. special presidential envoy for hostage affairs to Stockholm to monitor the court proceedings and to show support for Mayers.

Special envoy Robert O’Brien was seen at Stockholm District Court on July 30. Ruth Newman, spokeswoman for the U.S. Embassy in Stockholm, told TT that O’Brien was in Sweden “to look after the well-being of American citizens, which is always our top priority.”

Mayers’s mother, Renee Black, also attended the proceedings. She has said she is convinced her son isn’t guilty.

“This is a nightmare,” Black was quoted by Swedish media as saying.

Prosecutors and defense lawyers presented competing narratives on the trial’s opening day about what happened the night of the fight.

Prosecutors said 19-year-old Mustafa Jafari and a friend got into an argument with Mayers and one of his bodyguards near a fast-food restaurant where the rapper’s entourage had eaten.

Mayers has published videos on his Instagram account that showed him repeatedly pleading with Jafari and his friend to stop following him and his associates.

Defense lawyer Slobodan Jovicic stressed on July 30 that the rapper and his entourage “didn’t want any trouble” and alleged that Jafari and his friend had exhibited “aggressive and deeply provocative behavior.”

Mayers has previously encountered violent situations on streets because of his fame and “there are some people who don’t always wish him well.” Jovicic said.

“He’s has been harassed in the past. In this case, the bodyguard made the assessment that these people (Jafari and his friend) should move on … and not to come close,” the lawyer said.

Prosecutors alleged in court documents that Mayers and the two other men facing charges beat and kicked Jafari while he was on the ground. Jafari also was hit with parts of or a whole bottle, they alleged. The court file includes photos of Jafari’s cuts, bruises, and blood-stained clothes.

Another lawyer representing Mayers in Sweden, Martin Persson, told public broadcaster SVT that he would present new evidence, including facts that would show “no bottle has been used to hit or injure anyone.”

Any physical aggression by Mayers and his co-defendants was “within the limits of the law,” Persson said.

The rapper was jailed on July 3 and remains in custody. A social media campaign for his release, called #JusticeForRocky, was created soon after his arrest.