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A$AP Rocky gets suspended sentence for assault

A$AP Rocky was arrested on July 3 with three others following a fight, to which he has pleaded not guilty in a Swedish court. (AFP pic)

STOCKHOLM: A Stockholm court on Wednesday convicted US rapper A$AP Rocky of assault and gave him a suspended sentence over a street brawl, 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 court rejected their claims they had acted in self-defence, but said a prison sentence was not warranted.

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 court wrote in its verdict.

“The artist also threw the victim to the ground and stepped on his arm,” it said.

But, it added, the three were “not in a situation where they were entitled to self-defence”, and ordered them to pay the victim a total of 12,500 kronor (1,200 euros, US$1,300) in damages.

Mayers was not present in Stockholm for the verdict.

His lawyer, Slobodan Jovicic, said his client was “incredibly disappointed” by the ruling.

“We had hoped for an acquittal,” he told reporters, adding that Mayers had not decided whether to appeal.

Prosecutor Daniel Suneson had called for a six-month prison sentence for Mayers and two of his crew.

Considered a “flight risk”, Mayers was held in custody for a month while the case was investigated throughout his trial.

But he was released after the close of proceedings on Aug 2, pending the verdict, and immediately returned to the United States on board a private jet.

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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 was dispatched by Trump 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.

Rapper felt scared

At his first performance on Sunday following his release, in Anaheim, California, the rapper thanked fans and called the experience in Sweden “scary” and “humbling”.

“I need y’all (all of you) 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 throughout the affair, 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.

Brawl video

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.

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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.

The court ruled it was not proven that a bottle was used.

In its verdict, the court said actions like those committed by Mayers and his entourage would normally carry a two-month prison sentence.

But it ruled that a prison sentence was not warranted in this case, saying the defendants did not have a criminal record over the past five years.

“There is no reason to fear that the accused are going to be repeat offenders,” it said.

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