LOS ANGELES — A Los Angeles judge ruled Monday that there was enough evidence to stand trial for A$AP Rocky on charges that he shot a former friend and collaborator on the streets near a Hollywood hotel in 2021.
High Court Judge ML Villar gave his verdict at the preliminary hearing after hearing the testimony of two witnesses for about a day and a half. Rocky, who showed no visible reaction to the decision, pleaded not guilty to two charges of aggravated assault with a semi-automatic firearm.
The 35-year-old rapper, fashion mogul and two-time Grammy nominee is in a relationship with Rihanna, with whom he has two young sons.
He could face up to 24 years in prison if convicted on all charges, prosecutors said.
Villar said “the entire video and testimony” showed there was enough evidence for the defendant to go to trial. He emphasized that the standard of evidence at preliminary hearings is much lower than at trial.
“We’re not disappointed, we’re not surprised, we were expecting to go to trial, we were planning for the trial all along,” Rocky’s attorney, Joe Tacopina, said outside court. “When all this is said and done, Rocky will be acquitted without question.”
On the first day of the trial, which resumed on Monday after a long delay, Terell Ephron testified that he and Rocky, his childhood friend, were members of the same musician and artist community in New York high schools.
She said their relationship began to deteriorate, leading to a breakup in Hollywood on November 6, 2021, when Rocky pulled a gun on her for the first time and opened fire that grazed Ephron’s knuckles in a later confrontation.
“You don’t need anything more than Mr. Ephron’s statement alone,” Assistant District Attorney Paul Przelomiec told the judge before his decision, adding that surveillance video that captured parts of the incident “corroborates exactly what Mr. Ephron said.”
Tacopina stated that “there are some real problems with the complainant’s statement” and added, “I think there is not enough evidence.”
Tacopina questioned a police detective early Monday who found that seven officers who searched the sidewalk and street for about 20 minutes after the shooting found no evidence of shots fired and that a pair of 9mm bullet casings in police possession were seized by Ephron. , returned to the scene about an hour later.
Tacopina played body camera video of officers searching the ground for about 10 minutes. Ephron first went to police two days later to report the incident, and according to the detective, she handed over the bullet casings, which had no fingerprints on them.
Prosecutors played video from near the scene where no one was initially seen but two gunshots were heard. Then a man comes running around the corner, then slows down to walk. The identity of the man in the video is unclear, but LAPD Detective Frank Flores stated that they determined he was Rocky.
Flores testified that Rocky did not have a 9 mm handgun when a search warrant was obtained.
Prosecutors showed a still image from security camera video showing a faceless man wearing a hooded sweatshirt and holding what appeared to be a gun, and another image from the same video showing the face of a sweatshirt-wearing man with no gun visible. Flores testified that the footage led them to identify it as Rocky.
Tacopina, who also represented Donald Trump in his criminal case in New York, pressed the detective about the gun, arguing that it was not possible for the police to know whether the gun was loaded or a real gun.
“That weapon or whatever it was hasn’t been tested, has it?” Tacopina asked. “No, it was never recovered,” Flores said.
Tacopina asked, “Are you not sure if this is an operable weapon or a non-functional weapon?”
“Until I have it, I can’t tell you if it’s operable or not,” the detective replied.
Tacopina also attempted to cast doubt on the minor injury to Ephron’s hand and questioned why she waited until she returned to New York to receive medical treatment.
He showed the detective a photo of the grazed fingers and said sarcastically, “It’s a miracle he survived that attack.”
The judge warned him; On one of the few occasions he told Tacopina to change his tone.
Rocky was arrested at Los Angeles International Airport in April and charged in August. After spending the weekend at the Formula 1 Las Vegas Grand Prix auto race, he arrived at the courtroom on Monday morning wearing a dark suit, sunglasses and face mask, where he took on a key role as creative director for Puma in the clothing brand’s partnership with F1. .
He has released little music in recent years and is better known as the romantic partner, fashion influencer and co-parent of Rihanna, who had a second son in May. His first two studio albums in 2013 and 2015 reached No. 1 on the Billboard 200.
When asked outside the court whether Rocky would want Rihanna, who did not attend the preliminary hearings, to attend his hearing, Tacopina responded as follows: “He never subjugates his family, he wants to protect them, he handles them like Rocky would handle something, he protects them.” his family.”
Rocky also became an unexpected reason for then-President Donald Trump, who said he was trying to release the rapper, who was jailed after a brawl in Sweden in 2019, and return him to the United States. He was given a “conditional sentence” that did not mean additional prison time.