Embattled US rapper A$AP Rocky told a Swedish courtroom on Thursday that his actions during a violent confrontation with another man were motivated by self-defence.
The 30-year-old rapper, whose real name is Rakim Mayers, and two companions have been charged with assault stemming from the June 30 incident. They have been in custody in Stockholm since July 3. A$AP Rocky pleaded not guilty in court to the charges Tuesday.
Giving his first testimony Thursday afternoon, A$AP Rocky said that “everything [had] seemed to be going fine” when two men approached him and his companions. One of the men, 19-year-old Mustafa Jafari, started talking to his security guard. “Next thing I know, my security guard was lifting one of them,” the rapper testified, adding that the situation “got a little scary.”
“We didn’t want to provoke these guys. We just wanted to get away from them,” A$AP Rocky told the court, saying that they tried to walk away but that Jafari and his friend continued to follow them.
His testimony followed the prosecution’s release of surveillance footage from a nearby hamburger restaurant which appeared to show the security guard lift Jafari up by the throat before dropping him to the ground. The prosecutor, Daniel Suneson, says that similar footage of the incident was misleadingly edited by Rocky’s team for Instagram to back up their self-defense claim and that the unedited version “disproves the use of emergency defense.”
Rocky testified the any edits to the video posted to Instagram were only to take out use of the ‘n’ word.
According to media reports, A$AP Rocky testified that his bodyguard knows he has to protect him at all costs but that he is not a naturally violent person.
“You got to realize my life is very unique and particular,” said A$AP Rocky, describing how he had previously been stabbed in the face and twice robbed at gun point. “I don’t know what to expect when being approached by strangers. That’s why I have security.”
The three accused men say that Jafari had been harassing them and that they felt threatened by his behavior.
A$AP Rocky told the court that Jafari appeared as though he might be on drugs. “He was fearless, his eyes were all weird, he came up to a big bodyguard and asked us questions he knew we couldn’t answer. He looked like he was on drugs,” the rapper testified.
Prosecutors allege that the trio assaulted Jafari and hit him with a bottle. Rocky testified that he held a bottle only “momentarily” before putting it down, media reports on the trial said.
“I didn’t break any bottles,” the rapper testified. He said his crew had only picked up the bottles “to get them out of there” so they couldn’t be picked up by the people following him.
The rapper admitted to throwing Jafari to the ground and shoving him before his friends came to his aid and his security guard walked them away.
Prosecutors asked the musician about the whereabouts of his cell phone, revealing text messages to the court, reputedly from A$AP Rocky’s assistant, which read: “Harlem came out and smashed a bottle on a person” and “I hope Rocky deleted all the videos on his phone and kept only the one.” Saying he hadn’t seen his phone “for a month” the rapper responded that he wouldn’t want to speculate about what the text messages meant and that the prosecutors would need to ask his assistant, manager and security guard directly.
Concluding his testimony shortly after 4 p.m. local time (7 a.m. PT), A$AP Rocky said: “I have spent a month in Sweden. This is my 5th or 6th time here,” Rocky said as his testimony continued.
“I have seen the most beautiful architecture. And the not so nice things … People have said I could be compensated … What I want is justice. I want my name to be cleared. Justice for all of us.”
Alleged victim Jafari is expected to take the stand also today.
The case has attracted worldwide attention and also an extraordinary intervention from Donald Trump, who has called for A$AP Rocky’s release and sent the top U.S. official in charge of hostage affairs to Stockholm.
The rapper’s detention led to the cancellation of numerous European shows in July, with festivals in Spain, Germany, Belgium, Ukraine, Italy and the U.K. all left looking to fill the gap created.