A Swedish court released US rapper A$AP Rocky on Friday pending the verdict of an assault trial that has outraged his fans, a decision that was quickly welcomed by President Donald Trump.
The 30-year-old rapper, whose real name is Rakim Mayers, hugged his mother in the courtroom after the Stockholm district court’s presiding judge Per Lennerbrant announced he would be released pending the verdict, which will be delivered on August 14.
Mayers has been held in Sweden since July 3 when he was arrested following a brawl in Stockholm on June 30, which saw him and his crew embroiled in a fight with a 19-year-old plaintiff.
He and two others had been held in custody ahead of their trial because the court deemed him a “flight risk”.
His detention has sparked a campaign for his release by his fans and fellow artists, with an online petition called #JusticeForRocky garnering more than 640,000 signatures. Social media campaigns have even urged fans to boycott Swedish brands such as Ikea.
The New York-born rapper thanked his fans in an Instagram post after his release.
“Thank you from the bottom of my heart to all of my fans, friends and anyone across the globe who supported me during these last few weeks, I can’t begin to describe how grateful I am for all of you,” the post said.
– ‘Get home ASAP A$AP! –
Trump, who has repeatedly called for the rapper to be freed — drawing complaints of interference from Swedish politicians — also expressed his approval after the announcement.
“It was a Rocky Week, get home ASAP A$AP!,” the president tweeted.
The US Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs, Robert C. O’Brien was sent to attend the trial.
“The president felt they shouldn’t have been detained, they were stalked,” O’Brien told reporters.
Fans and reporters lined up outside the entrance to the remand prison, trying to catch a glimpse of the rapper as he left, but were disappointed to learn the artist had been snuck out a side entrance.
Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet reported he left for the airport where a private jet was waiting for him.
Mayers pleaded not guilty due to self-defense and gave his own account of the brawl in court on Thursday, stressing that he felt “scared” and that he and his entourage had repeatedly told the plaintiff to leave them alone.
Mayers conceded he threw the plaintiff to the ground and “kicked his arm”, but denied the prosecution’s claim that a bottle was used and insisted he only acted after the accuser and his friend began attacking his bodyguard.
The plaintiff alleged that he was attacked by Mayers and his entourage when he followed them to ask about a pair of headphones broken in an earlier scuffle with the rapper’s bodyguard.
Parts of the brawl were captured on video, and in one published by US celebrity news outlet TMZ, the rapper can be seen throwing a young man to the ground and aiming several punches at him while he is down.
The court has also been shown videos posted on the artist’s Instagram account, purporting to show the lead-up to the brawl.
In them, Mayers appears to repeatedly ask the man and his friend to stop following him and his entourage. The prosecution argued that the Instagram videos were heavily edited.
Much of the trial has also focused on whether a bottle was used as a weapon, as the plaintiff suffered cuts that medical examiners said seemed to be from the glass.
– ‘Won’t serve a single day’ –
On Friday, the third and final day of the trial, witnesses including the rapper’s bodyguard took the stand.
Fans gathered outside the court shouting “Free Rocky” and “Free Flacko,” invoking the rapper’s different nicknames while playing his songs over loudspeakers.
Prosecutor Daniel Suneson called for a jail sentence of about six months, saying Mayers did not seem “scared” as he had claimed, and there had been no need for self-defense.
Suneson issued a statement following the court’s decision saying that he “did not want to speculate on whether they will be convicted or acquitted”.
Mayers’ lawyer Slobodan Jovicic told the court that “there is no basis to believe that the description of the crime applies to my client, (and) that he should be acquitted and set free today”.
Should the court find him guilty, the rapper said he was open to community service.
“I’m into charitable work so I wouldn’t mind doing something like that on the weekends. It’s always an option,” Mayers said.
However, after the trial concluded Jovicic didn’t think there would be any need for Mayers to return to Sweden for any type of sentence.
“I’m pretty confident he won’t need to serve a single day,” Jovicic told reporters.