On Tuesday, A$AP Rocky pleaded not guilty to an assault charge in Sweden, where his lawyer argued that the rapper acted in self-defense during an altercation in Stockholm last month.
As The Washington Post’s Rick Noack reported, Rocky’s trial began amid intense scrutiny over his case, and he faces up to two years in prison if convicted. Advocates have expressed particular concern with the length of his detention, which began weeks before Swedish prosecutors charged him with assault on Thursday. And some supporters have questioned whether the 30-year-old rapper’s race has played a role in his treatment there.
Here’s what you need to know about Rocky’s case and trial, which is expected to last until Friday.
Rocky and two of his associates, David Rispers Jr. and Bladimir Corniel, were arrested earlier this month following the June 30 street brawl.
TMZ published video of the alleged assault in a July 1 post that said “A$AP Rocky and his crew pummeled a guy in Sweden, leaving him battered and bloodied in the street.” But the gossip site published another video the next day that appeared to show Rocky trying to defuse the situation before the fight. “Chill, go somewhere,” the rapper says in the video, which was also posted to his Instagram account. “We didn’t want trouble, they followed us for 4 blocks,” he wrote in the caption.
What do prosecutors say?
Public prosecutor Daniel Suneson cited video evidence when announcing the decision to charge Rocky with assault. “It is worth noting that I have had access to a greater amount of material than that which has previously been available on the internet,” he said in a statement last week. “In addition to video material, the injured party’s statements have been supported by witness statements.”
As Noack reported, prosecutors said Tuesday that CCTV footage and text messages would show that the rapper and his associates had initiated the fight. The court will also consider whether a broken glass bottle, seen in crime photos presented by prosecutors, was used to attack a 19-year-old man.
Who has spoken out on Rocky’s behalf?
A group of Democratic lawmakers — including Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D-N.Y.), who represents Rocky’s native Harlem — has been advocating for his release. An adviser for the Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network joined the congressman at a news conference earlier this month.
The rapper has also received public support from celebrities including RZA, Justin Bieber, Meek Mill, Shawn Mendes, Kris Jenner and Nicki Minaj. Some of his hip-hop peers pledged to boycott Sweden: “no more sweden for me, ever,” Tyler, the Creator tweeted after Rocky had spent a few days in custody. Others, including Migos rapper Quavo, said they have experienced mistreatment by Swedish police.
Meanwhile, rapper G-Eazy said he believes Rocky’s weeks-long detention is racially motivated. The white rapper was convicted of assault and drug possession in Sweden last year but avoided jail time after appearing in court the day following his arrest.
Kim Kardashian West and her husband, Kanye West, who has collaborated with Rocky in the past, reached out to the White House — including senior adviser Jared Kushner — to bring attention to the rapper’s case.
What has President Trump said?
Trump first commented on the case July 19, when a Swedish court ruled that Rocky would be detained for another week as prosecutors decided whether to formally charge him with assault. After discussing the rapper’s situation in the Oval Office, where he credited first lady Melania Trump with bringing the matter to his attention, Trump tweeted that he would “be calling the very talented Prime Minister of Sweden to see what we can do about helping A$AP Rocky.”
After Swedish prosecutors charged the rapper last week, the president tweeted that he was “very disappointed” in the Swedish prime minister “for being unable to act.” He noted that he had watched tapes of the alleged assault, which led him to believe Rocky “was being followed and harassed by troublemakers.” The president also asserted that “Sweden has let our African American Community down in the United States.”
What have Swedish authorities said about the case?
As suggested by Trump’s tweet last week, Swedish officials have not taken kindly to the president’s appeals.
“Sweden and Prime Minister Stefan Löfven have explained and emphasized to the White House and President Trump respectively, the complete independence of the Swedish judicial system, prosecutors and courts,” Mikael Lindström, acting press secretary, wrote in a statement to The Washington Post last week.
“In Sweden everyone is equal before the law. The Government is not allowed, and will not attempt, to influence the legal proceedings, which are now ongoing,” Lindström added.