Swedish authorities formally charged A$AP Rocky with assault on Thursday, meaning the American rapper now awaits trial for a crime that could land him in prison for up to two years. The charge comes despite efforts by President Donald Trump to “#FreeRocky,” which included calling Sweden’s Prime Minister to intervene on the musician’s behalf.
Trump quickly signaled his disappointment in a tweet Thursday, saying that “Sweden has let our African American Community down in the United States.”
Very disappointed in Prime Minister Stefan Löfven for being unable to act. Sweden has let our African American Community down in the United States. I watched the tapes of A$AP Rocky, and he was being followed and harassed by troublemakers. Treat Americans fairly! #FreeRocky
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 25, 2019
Give A$AP Rocky his FREEDOM. We do so much for Sweden but it doesn’t seem to work the other way around. Sweden should focus on its real crime problem! #FreeRocky
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 25, 2019
The U.S. State Department said Thursday that it was “following the case closely.”
The rapper, whose real name is Rakim Mayers, was first detained about three weeks ago, and was charged alongside two other individuals after a fight broke out in Stockholm. The two other people were described as part of his entourage, the Associated Press reported. The Grammy-nominated artist was in Sweden to perform at a music festival. An alleged victim in the case was also charged initially, but an investigation into him has since been dropped. Prosecutors had originally listed two individuals as victims, but later said they only had sufficient evidence to pursue charges for one victim.
Snippets of the incident were captured on camera and posted online.
A video clip published by a Swedish newspaper appears to show the rapper violently throwing a man to the ground. Another video posted on celebrity news site TMZ shows A$AP Rocky and others punching a man on the floor.
A defense attorney representing A$AP Rocky has said the incident was an act of self-defense, the Associated Press reported. The rapper also posted a video on his Instagram that appears to show two men trailing him and one of them hitting his security person with his headphones.
A$AP Rocky had told the two men in the video: “We don’t want to fight you all, we’re not trying to go to jail.” He later addressed the camera, saying, “We don’t want no problems with these boys. They keep following us.”
Prosecutors say there is more to the story.
“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,” Daniel Suneson, a public prosecutor working on the A$AP Rocky case, said in an online statement Thursday. “In addition to video material, the injured party’s statements have been supported by witness statements.”
Suneson added that he would press charges “despite claims of self-defense and provocation.”
A$AP Rocky is expected to be in court next Tuesday for what is scheduled to be a three-day hearing ending on Friday.
If convicted, the rapper will likely face a prison sentence that lasts closer to three to five months, Dennis Martinsson, a senior law lecturer at Stockholm University who has frequently spoken about the case for Swedish media, tells TIME. “That’s what would be in line with other similar cases,” he also says, adding that he would be shocked if the prison terms were anywhere close to or more than a year.
Rocky’s punishment could also include a fine based on his daily earnings if he does not receive a prison sentence, a spokeswoman for the Swedish Prosecution Authority told The New York Times.
It is highly unlikely that the judge would deliver a final verdict by the end of next week. The court has within three weeks from the last day of the hearing to weigh in on a defendant’s guilt, Martinsson explains.
During this time, the rapper will probably remain in a detention center.
But even before a formal judgment is made, the court may choose to release Rocky. That usually only happens in cases in which the court is already leaning toward a not guilty verdict or the charge is minor in nature, according to Martinsson.
Sweden does not have a bail system, which is why the rapper was detained with no way to get out even before he was formally charged. However, Sweden does have a parole system. Prisoners typically get parole after completing two-thirds of their sentence, Martinsson says.
Last week, Trump tweeted that “he would personally vouch for his bail,” despite Sweden having no bail system. Martinsson also says he considers Trump’s tweets on the situation “misinformation and misunderstanding.”
Just had a very good call with @SwedishPM Stefan Löfven who assured me that American citizen A$AP Rocky will be treated fairly. Likewise, I assured him that A$AP was not a flight risk and offered to personally vouch for his bail, or an alternative....
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 20, 2019
“For one, we don’t have a bail system. Secondly, it seems from the tweet that he wanted to try and convince the Swedish Prime Minister to intervene with the case. But according to our constitution, all of our ministers — even the Prime Minister — cannot even comment or state anything about an individual case,” Martinsson says. “If they would do so, it would be grounds for impeachment.”
Martinsson says he believes a big reason for the disconnect between how Swedes and Americans have interpreted the A$AP Rocky case is that politicians in the U.S. assume that their Swedish counterparts can intervene.
“They can’t. They’re strictly forbidden,” Martinsson says. “The constitution clearly states that.”
That may explain why Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven was quick to resist Trump’s earlier pleas. Löfven said through a spokesperson after speaking with Trump that “everyone is equal before the law and that the government cannot and will not attempt to influence the legal proceedings,” the Associated Press previously reported.
Even Anne Ramberg, secretary-general of the Swedish Bar Association, tells TIME it would be completely “out of line” for the Prime Minister to interfere.
Ramberg adds that when Swedish prosecutors decide to prosecute, about 90 to 95 percent of those cases end in a conviction.
“That’s because even the prosecutors have to be not only independent but objective before they go to court,” Ramberg says. “They have to take into account all the circumstances, even those in favor of the accused.”
The A$AP Rocky case has sparked a broader discussion in Sweden about the detention system. The Swedish Bar Association has been “very critical” in the past against detaining prisoners for long periods of time — sometimes years — without any formal charge. Sweden has also been criticized by the U.N. and the European Union for its policy.
Still, both Ramberg and Martinsson say this is a legitimate but separate issue to the A$AP Rocky case. They say he received “standard” treatment for a person who does not live in Sweden, and could therefore be considered a flight risk. They also dismiss any notion that this was about racism.
The scuffle in Stockholm had quickly turned into an international incident, drawing the attention of high-level politicians and celebrities, including Kim Kardashian West, who indicated that she lobbied the White House to secure the musician’s release.
Thank you @realDonaldTrump , @SecPompeo, Jared Kushner & everyone involved with the efforts to Free ASAP Rocky & his two friends. Your commitment to justice reform is so appreciated 🙏🏼🤞🏼 https://t.co/Ym1Rzo5Z6c
— Kim Kardashian West (@KimKardashian) July 18, 2019
Even Justin Bieber made his voice heard with a bold tweet, commenting on both A$AP Rocky and the border crisis.