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Sunday September 20th, 2020 2:23PM

Rapper A$AP Rocky charged with assault over fight in Sweden

By The Associated Press
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STOCKHOLM (AP) — A Swedish prosecutor on Thursday charged rapper A$AP Rocky with assault over a fight in Stockholm last month, in a case that has drawn the attention of fellow recording artists as well as U.S. President Donald Trump.

Trump responded with two sharply-worded tweets, calling on Sweden to "Treat Americans fairly!" and criticizing Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven, whom he had personally lobbied, "for being unable to act."

"Give A$AP Rocky his FREEDOM," Trump added. "We do so much for Sweden but it doesn't seem to work the other way around. Sweden should focus on its real crime problem! #FreeRocky."

Mikael Lindstrom, a spokesman for Lofven, responded to Trump by emphasizing the independence of the Swedish judicial system. "In Sweden everyone is equal before the law," Lindstrom said. "The Government is not allowed, and will not attempt, to influence the legal proceedings, which are now ongoing."

Rocky, a platinum-selling, Grammy-nominated artist whose real name is Rakim Mayers, has been in custody since July 3 as authorities investigate a fight he was allegedly involved in on June 30 before appearing at a music festival. The case has drawn the attention of a long list of U.S. celebrities, including Sean "Diddy" Combs, Justin Bieber and Kim Kardashian West.

Trump on Saturday tweeted that he had spoken with Lofven about the case and "offered to personally vouch for his bail," even though that's not something available under Swedish law. Urged on by the first lady and celebrities including Kardashian West, the president had said in a Friday tweet that he would intervene to try to free Rocky.

Lofven's press secretary, Toni Eriksson, later said the two leaders had a "friendly and respectful" conversation in which Lofven "made certain to emphasize the complete independence of the Swedish judicial system, prosecutors and courts" and stressed that the government cannot and will not attempt to influence the legal proceedings.

Prosecutor Daniel Suneson said in a statement that he filed charges against the artist and two others "suspected of assault causing actual bodily harm, having come to the conclusion that the events in question constitute a crime and despite claims of self-defense and provocation."

The rapper and the other two suspects, who were described as members of his entourage but not identified, will remain in custody until trial.

The prosecutor has recommended that the Stockholm District Court set aside three days for the trial, which defense lawyer Slobodan Jovicic said is expected to start Tuesday. The charges can carry a maximum sentence of two years in prison.

Videos published on social media appear to show a person being violently thrown onto the ground by Rocky, 30. Trump said in his tweets that he had "watched the tapes of A$AP Rocky" and concluded "he was being followed and harassed by troublemakers."

The rapper asserts that it was self-defense.

But Suneson said he concluded otherwise after studying videos available to investigators.

"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 addition to video material, the injured party's statements have been supported by witness statements."

Suneson added that there were initially two injured parties in the case, but the allegations concerning one of them were dropped due to "insufficient supporting evidence" and the charges relate to only one alleged victim. That person has not been identified.

A counter-allegation was made by the artist's bodyguard against one of the alleged victims, but that case was closed earlier this week, the prosecutor said.

Defense lawyer Jovicic said, "Rakim Mayers feels that he acted in self-defense, he is claiming that he is innocent, and in that perspective he of course is very sad."

"There's been a lot of support from a lot of different people, and Rakim Mayers is of course very thankful for everybody that has reached out," Jovicic said. He added that "it's been a very hard time for him."

Rocky has collaborated with Kendrick Lamar, Cardi B, Drake and Selena Gomez.

Sweden's ambassador to Washington, Karin Olofsdotter, told Swedish public broadcaster SVT that she has been forced to call off her summer holiday to deal with the rapper's case. She has had meetings with members of the U.S. Congress, who she said struggled to understand that one can be detained in Sweden without having the opportunity to be released on bail.

Olofsdotter and Jovicic both rejected speculation that racist motives might have played a role in A$AP Rocky's arrest.

"No, no, no. I think that we have not a racist society here," Jovicic said. "I don't see that angle at all."

___

Geir Moulson in Berlin, Jari Tanner in Helsinki, Finland, and Jill Colvin in Washington contributed to this report.

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