A$AP Rocky pleads not guilty to assault as trial begins in Sweden

American rapper A$AP Rocky entered a not guilty plea to an assault charge as his trial got underway Tuesday in Sweden. Two other members of his entourage were also facing charges in the high-profile legal case that has caught the attention of President Donald Trump and celebrities.

The trial of the recording artist and model, whose real name is Rakim Mayers, began Tuesday in Stockholm District Court. The court has also set aside Thursday and Friday for the case, but it was not clear whether the trial would go the full three days. Mayers’ mother was seen arriving at the court, and shortly after it began the performer’s lawyer submitted his plea of not guilty, claiming he was acting in self-defense.
Swedish prosecutors allege that the Grammy-nominated rapper and the two other suspects “deliberately, together and in agreement” attacked the alleged victim, Mustafa Jafari, in central Stockholm on June 30.The charges carry a maximum sentence of two years in prison. Mayers has been in custody since July 3 and has consistently said he acted in self-defense.Sweden defends justice system from Trump’s scornThe trial was being held in a secure courtroom “because of the large interest from the media and the public,” the Stockholm court said. No photographing or filming was permitted inside the courtroom.Prosecutors alleged in more than 500 pages of court documents that the three suspects beat and kicked Jafari while he was on the ground and that he was hit by parts of or a whole bottle.As CBS News correspondent Roxana Saberi reports, Rocky posted videos to his own Instagram account prior to his arrest, showing himself and other members of his entourage repeatedly telling two men, including Jafari, to leave him and his friends alone and to stop following them.But another video shows Rocky and thrown one of the men to the ground and then punch and kick him several times, along with other members of his group.Prosecutors have numerous photos of Jafari’s cuts, bruises and blood-stained clothes as part of their evidence.  The rapper’s lawyer, Martin Persson, told Swedish public broadcaster SVT on Monday that he would present the court with new evidence, including showing that “no bottle has been used to hit or injure anyone” and that the violence used was “within the limits of the law.”

A lawyer for Jafari, Magnus Stromberg, told The Associated Press last Friday that the beating started when one of A$AP Rocky’s guards “grabbed him (Jafari) by the neck and dragged him away” and that Jafari didn’t provoke the assault.Friends in high placesMayers’ arrest prompted Mr. Trump to intervene on behalf of the jailed rapper and sparked an unusual diplomatic spat when Swedish prosecutors charged the 30-year-old artist last week.The case has also drawn the attention of American celebrities including Kim Kardashian West and Mayers’ fellow recording artists, Sean “Diddy” Combs and Justin Bieber, and spawned a #JusticeForRocky movement on social media.Stockholm University law lecturer Dennis Martinsson told CBS News’ Saberi that if Rocky is convicted, he’s likely to be released on probation or spend three to five months in prison, rather than anything near the maximum possible sentence of two years. Given the unusual Twitter intervention in the case by President Trump and other celebrities, including tweets from Mr. Trump suggesting that Rocky’s race might have played a role in the arrest, Saberi asked Martinsson whether he believed the rapper was getting a fair trial.”Yes, I’d say so,” the law expert said. “I’d even go so far to say that his case has been fast-tracked in a way,” he added, suggesting the country’s justice system had taken “the international, sort of, pressure” into account.Mr. Trump in one tweet called on Sweden to release Rocky on bail prior to the trial, but Martinsson reiterated that it would not have been legally possible as Sweden does not have a bail system.

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