American rapper A$AP Rocky appealed for “justice” at his assault trial in Sweden on Thursday and testified that he had acted in self-defense during a “scary” June street fight.
The artist, whose case has fueled a diplomatic quarrel after repeated interventions from US President Donald Trump’s administration, made a statement and was cross-examined by prosecutors on the second day of the trial. It was monitored from the courtroom by Trump’s hostage negotiator.
He has pleaded not guilty to assault charges after being detained following a brawl in the Swedish capital Stockholm on June 30.
He said he was trying to download an app to hire an electric scooter when his bodyguard was approached by the alleged victim.
“Things got a little weird. We thought that the behavior of these guys was strange, it got a bit scary,” A$AP Rocky, whose real name Rakim Mayers, told a packed courtroom.
He added that he suspected the man was under the influence of drugs, and that he and his entourage attempted to walk away but were followed by the man and his friend.
“At this point we are really scared. I saw my security guard being cut, bleeding. We didn’t know what to expect with these strangers — I’m not from Sweden, so it was really scary,” the rapper said.
“I wanted to go straight to the hotel for safety. I didn’t want this to happen,” he added. “We had no clue where we were, we just knew we weren’t close to the hotel.”
“I was scared and we were in defense mode,” the rapper added later, during cross-examination by the Swedish prosecutor. “You’ve got to realize that my life is very, very particular,” he said. “We’re in a foreign country. We’re approached by two strangers with aggressive behavior.
“Ten months ago when I was with my cousin and these two gentlemen, I was stabbed in the face,” A$AP Rocky said, adding that his home has been twice robbed at gun point. “I don’t know what to expect when I’m being approached by strangers. That is why I have a security guard. I’m only thinking about defending myself.”
When quizzed by his own lawyer, the rapper said he wanted “justice” in the case.
“I spent a month here in Sweden. This is my fifth or sixth time here. I’ve seen the most beautiful architecture and beautiful side of Sweden. And the obviously the not so pretty side of Sweden from inside prison,” he said.
“I’ve heard speculation that I could demand damages and money and what not. I don’t want any money. I can earn that money back. For me, what I want is justice. And I want my name to be cleared. And justice for all.”
Surveillance footage analyzed
A$AP Rocky’s lawyer, Slobodan Jovicic, began proceedings on Thursday by grilling the alleged victim about why he started talking to the rapper’s bodyguard.
“To me they were just normal people. I didn’t recognize them,” the alleged victim said, adding that he approached the bodyguard to ask for help finding his friend.
The court was also shown surveillance footage of the brawl, in which the rapper and his two co-defendants, Bladimir Corniel and David Rispers, assert they were acting in self-defense.
The man says A$AP Rocky and his entourage assaulted him by kicking and beating him with a glass bottle or part of one while he lay on the ground. Under Swedish law, A$AP Rocky could face a maximum penalty of two years in prison. However, according to Swedish media, the prosecutors have indicated they do not expect to ask for the maximum penalty.
The rapper admitted he briefly held a bottle during the altercation, but put it down without using it as a weapon.
The alleged victim told the rapper’s lawyer Jovicic he was surprised by the behavior of A$AP Rocky and his entourage, whom he claimed were pushing him away as he searched for his friend.
But Jovicic pressed the alleged victim on why he approached the group in the first place.
“Out of all the people in this square, you feel it appropriate to ask these people, whose language you don’t even understand?,” he asked. The alleged victim spoke in Persian and his answers were translated in the courtroom.
Jovicic also played a clip from a cell phone where it appears the victim was trying to strike the rapper’s bodyguard with his fist and rings, followed by an attempt to hit him with headphones.
The alleged victim was also probed by Corniel’s lawyer, Martin Persson, on whether a bottle was used in the attack, as previously claimed during Tuesday’s hearing.
After viewing stills from a video of the incident, Persson referred to the alleged attackers and told the victim: “So none of the eight hands in these photos actually holds a bottle.”
“I asked if they had the bottles from the beginning when they approached you and you said yes. Why are you unsure of this now?,” the lawyer added.
The alleged victim replied: “My wounds have not come from nowhere. Would they have come from the air? There are witnesses that can attest to this.”
The images only show “a short sequence of what happened. I was trying to get away,” he added.
In photos of the crime scene displayed to the court on Tuesday, a broken glass bottle was visible on the street where the brawl took place and a fragment of what appeared to be the same bottle could be seen stuck in A$AP Rocky’s sweater.
Footage of the altercation posted by TMZ and clips shared by A$AP Rocky himself, which have been at the heart of the investigation, were also played in court on Tuesday.
Presidential presence in courtroom
Presidential Hostage Affairs Envoy Robert C. O’Brien greeted A$AP Rocky’s mother with a handshake as proceedings began.
O’Brien’s presence in the courtroom, for the second day of the trial, marks the latest move from the Oval Office in a trial that is being closely watched by Trump and has caused a diplomatic quarrel between the President and his Swedish counterparts.
It comes after O’Brien told CNN on Tuesday that Trump wants the rapper and his two co-defendants, Corniel and Rispers, to “come home as soon as possible.”
Trump has repeatedly pressed Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven to free A$AP Rocky on Twitter, but his efforts have been rebuffed by the country’s government.
A$AP Rocky is expected to testify later on Thursday. Jovicic maintains his client did not commit any crime. The rapper asserts that he was acting in self-defense when he threw the victim to the ground and stepped on his arm.
The trial, at a packed Stockholm District Court, has attracted the world’s media, and judge Per Lennerbrant told the courtroom on Thursday he wanted its focus to remain on the incident in question.
“This case is about an alleged assault that happened here in Stockholm. Nothing else. I want to say this to everyone, ahead of today’s questioning,” he said at the start of proceedings.
The trial is set to conclude on Friday, when closing arguments will be made, but Lennerbrant suggested on Thursday that proceedings are running behind schedule and a further day may be needed.