STOCKHOLM: A Stockholm court on Wednesday convicted US rapper A$AP Rocky of assault and handed him a suspended sentence over a street brawl in June, a case that outraged fans and sparked a diplomatic spat with US President Donald Trump.
The 30-year-old rapper, whose real name is Rakim Mayers, and two members of his entourage were found guilty of assaulting a 19-year-old in a fight in central Stockholm on June 30.
The three, who were in the Swedish capital for a concert, “assaulted the victim by hitting and kicking him as he lay on the ground. The artist has also thrown the victim to the ground and stepped on his arm,” the court wrote in its verdict, rejecting the defence’s argument of self-defence.
The three were “not in a situation where they were entitled to self-defence”, the court said.
Mayers was not present in Stockholm for the verdict.
Prosecutor Daniel Suneson had called for a six-month prison sentence for Mayers and two of his crew, while the defence argued they should be acquitted.
Considered a “flight risk”, Mayers was held in custody for a month while the case was investigated and throughout his trial.
But he was released after the close of proceedings on August 2, pending the verdict, and immediately returned to the United States.
Fans, fellow artists and even Trump had called for his release — with the US president’s intervention drawing complaints from Swedish politicians.
US Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs Robert C. O’Brien to attend the trial, who told reporters: “The president felt they shouldn’t have been detained, they were stalked.”
An online petition also called #JusticeForRocky garnered more than 640,000 signatures and supporters were urged to boycott Swedish brands such as Ikea.
At his first performance on Sunday following his release, in Anaheim in California, the rapper thanked fans and called the experience in Sweden “scary” and “humbling”.
“I need y’all to keep praying for me,” he told the crowd, saying he hoped he would not have to return to serve a jail sentence.
The artist maintained his innocence, telling the court he acted in self-defence, saying he felt “scared” and that he and his entourage had repeatedly told the plaintiff to leave them alone.
Mayers conceded he threw the man 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, a Swedish resident born in Afghanistan, alleged he was attacked by Mayers and his entourage when he followed them to ask about a headphone set broken in an earlier scuffle with the rapper’s bodyguard.
Assault carries a maximum penalty of two years in prison in Sweden.
In one video clip of the brawl 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 was also shown videos posted on the artist’s Instagram account, purporting to show the lead-up to the scrap.
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 also focused on whether a bottle was used as the plaintiff suffered cuts that medical examiners said seemed to be from glass.
In its verdict, the court said that Mayers and two members of his entourage’s actions were not severe enough to warrant more time in prison.
“The accused have no criminal record during the past five years… (and) there is no reason to fear that the accused are going to be repeat offenders,” it said.