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A Los Angeles judge ruled Monday that there was enough evidence for A$AP Rocky to stand trial on charges of shooting a former friend and collaborator outside a Hollywood hotel in 2021.
Superior Court Judge ML Villar made the decision during a preliminary hearing, after hearing about a day and a half of testimony. Rocky has pleaded not guilty to two counts of assault with a semi-automatic firearm.
The 35-year-old hip-hop star, fashion mogul and two-time Grammy nominee is in a relationship with Rihanna, with whom he has two young sons.
Villar said the “totality of the video and testimony” shows there is sufficient evidence for the defendant to stand trial. She pointed out that preliminary hearings have much lower standards of proof than a trial.
Rocky, sitting in the courtroom, showed no visible reaction.
“We’re not disappointed or surprised, we expected a trial, we’ve been planning a trial all along,” Rocky’s lawyer said. Joe Tacopina, declared in court. “Rocky will be vindicated when all this is said and done, without a doubt.”
On the first day of the hearing, which resumed Monday after a long delay, Terell Ephron testified that he and Rocky, friends since childhood, had belonged to the same collective of musicians and artists at their New York high school.
He said their relationship began to deteriorate and reached a standoff in Hollywood on November 6, 2021, when he said Rocky first pointed a gun at him and, in a later confrontation, fired shots that grazed Ephron’s knuckles.
Tacopina established in questioning of a police detective that seven officers who searched a sidewalk and street about 20 minutes after the shots were allegedly fired found no evidence of the shooting and that A pair of 9mm shell casings in police possession were recovered by Ephron, who returned to the scene about an hour after the confrontation.
Tacopina played body camera video from the officers, who searched the ground for about 10 minutes. Ephron, who first went to police to report the incident two days later, returned the shell casings which the detective said contained no recoverable fingerprints.
Prosecutors showed a separate video taken near the scene where no one is initially visible, but what sounds like two gunshots can be heard. Then a man comes running around a street corner, then slows down and starts walking. The identity of the man is unclear in the video, but LAPD Detective Frank Flores said he has established that it was Rocky.
Flores testified during Tacopina’s interrogation that no 9mm pistol was recovered when a search warrant was served on Rocky.
Prosecutors showed an image from surveillance video showing a man in a hooded sweatshirt whose face is not visible holding what appears to be a gun, as well as another image of the same video showing the man’s face wearing a sweatshirt, with no visible weapon. Flores testified that the combined images led them to establish that it was Rocky.
Tacopina, who also represents Donald Trump in his New York criminal case and others, pressed the detective on the gun, suggesting police had no way of knowing whether it was a loaded gun or even a real weapon.
“This weapon or whatever it is hasn’t been tested, has it?” » asked Tacopina. “No, he was never found,” Flores said.
Tacopina asked, “You don’t know if it’s an operational weapon or a non-operational weapon or something?”
“Without having it, I can’t tell you if it’s usable,” the detective replied.
Tacopina also tried to cast doubt on Ephron’s minor hand injury, questioning why he waited until he returned to New York to seek medical attention.
He showed the detective a photo of the skinned fingers and said sarcastically, “It’s a miracle he survived that shooting.” »
The judge reprimanded him, one of many times she told Tacopina to change his tune.
Rocky was arrested at Los Angeles International Airport in the case in April and charged in August. He arrived in the courtroom Monday morning wearing a dark suit, sunglasses and a mask, after spending the weekend at the Las Vegas Formula 1 Grand Prix auto race, where he played a leading role as creative director of Puma in the clothing brand’s partnership with F1. .
He has released little music in recent years and has become better known as the romantic partner, fellow fashion influencer and co-parent of Rihanna, with whom he had a second son in May. His first two studio albums in 2013 and 2015 both reached number one on the Billboard 200.
Rocky also became an unlikely cause for then-President Donald Trump, who said he was trying to free the rapper and return him to the United States when he was jailed after a fight in Sweden in 2019 .He was convicted of assault at trial, but was found guilty of assault. received a “suspended sentence,” which meant no additional prison time.
In California courts, preliminary hearings like these are a sort of miniature version of a trial, in which only a judge decides whether there is enough evidence to move forward. The standard of proof for doing so is much lower than that required for criminal guilt.
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