ASAP Rocky Trial Begins in Sweden, With a Special Envoy From America

Jul 30, 2019 · 92 comments
William (San Diego)
Based on the Times account of what happened, it looks like Sweden and the U.S. have the same problem - How to legislate against stupidity.
Diane (Michigan)
Asap said Mr. Jafari and another man had been harassing and following him and that he feared he was about to be attacked. I have never heard that throwing someone to the ground, hitting and kicking them was defending oneself from thinking you were going to be attacked.
Randall (Portland, OR)
I really like A$AP Rocky; he's probably one of my favorite hip-hop artists. Maybe he assaulted some guy. Maybe not. I don't know. Trump DEFINITELY doesn't know, and his involvement in this case is absolutely bonkers. It's honestly rather pathetic watching Trump bumble and shriek at Sweden, thinking that their government cares about his whining, and it's embarrassing for America.
Lois Ruble (San Diego)
A "hostage" diplomat? Be still my heart! So what exactly will this "diplomat" do? Interpret Rocky's answers into diplomatic-ese? Try to insert himself into Sweden's legal system? It would all be so hilarious if it weren't so astoundingly inept. People - we ALL need to vote the joke - OUT!
Katherine Cagle (Winston-Salem, NC)
Move on folks. There's nothing to see here. Trump is just doing this to try to solidify his relationship with people of color after his attacks on "The Squad" and Elijah Cummings. He's trying to tell the voters he isn't racist (lol). Otherwise he wouldn't care.
We the Pimples of the United Face (Montague MA)
Trump just wants Sweden to let Rocky “go back where he came from.” If Trump thinks this will win in votes from black Americans, he is misguided.... as usual.
Kam Eftekhar (Chicago)
Given the murder of a cop in Italy: both Italy and Sweden should build a wall using Mexican workers, to keep Americans out :)!
Tim (CT)
Sweden is a creepy place. I saw the video and it's insane an American is in jail for self defense. Insane. What a creepy, creepy country.
Diane (Michigan)
@Tim Did you read that he feared he was going to be attacked? He wasn't attacked. Last I knew fearing you are going to be attacked isn't enough to attack someone. To be self defense you have to be attacked first
msf (NYC)
I am so happy that in Sweden all seem to be the same under the law. If that rapper committed a crime - he should be held accountable + learn a valuable lesson. To send a "Hostage diplomat" is just ridiculous!
kb (Los Angeles, CA)
Apparently Kanye West and Kim Kardashian have entered that select circle of worthies occupied by the likes of Vladimir Putin who can say "jump" and DJT will respond "how high?".
Jax (Providence)
Can not wait until the day Kanye West is only mentioned in conversation like this: “hey, remember that moron who thought he was a musical genius but was really just a self-serving ego maniac?” As real musicians — The Beatles — once sang: It won’t be long now, yeah, yeah, it won’t be long now.
Wayne (Brooklyn, New York)
I guess not much happens in Sweden to make this case exciting for Ms. Queen Jonsson. The state department cautions Americans traveling abroad to obey all local laws. Stockholm is no Brooklyn where you could give someone a street beat down. If Trump were really serious he would advocate for China to release Wendell Brown, the football coach, who has been locked up in China for defending himself after beer bottles were thrown at him and struck him. Not only is he doing prison time but he also has to pay restitution to the people who attacked him. If you're a foreigner in China you basically abrogate your rights. Unlike in America, the courts will rule in favor of a Chinese citizen over you even with glaring evidence they are in the wrong and you're in the right.
joe from Philly (Philadelphia, PA)
@Wayne and the guy Russia has held since January.
stefanie (santa fe nm)
Why are we wasting tax payer dollars sending a special envoy for hostage affairs? Do we think the Swedish justice system is like the ones in Russia, Saudi Arabia or North Korea? Certainly this rapper is not a hostage but a legitimate suspect in an assault case. What horror is Trump trying to deflect today?
gizarap (Philadelphia)
ASAP who? With so many pressing issues at play right now who cares about a VERY minor celebrity and his rude behavior. Only an idiot like Trump woudl try to inflate this into an international incident. The Swedes must be laughing out loud at his stupidity.
P.C.Chapman (Atlanta, GA)
1. Reaction of 1600 in the case of Swedish PM calling for release of their citizen in a criminal action? 2. "let me throw some sand and dust to camouflage the 'hostage crisis' here. 3. Another episode of the Show he always loves.
George Wagner (Asheville, NC)
“in Sweden everyone is equal before the law and that the government cannot and will not attempt to influence the legal proceedings.” How refreshing.
Nancy Lederman (New York City)
Another example of a president who is unable to face reality when it doesn't conform to his Bizzaro world views elevating the Trump brand and given to impulsive actions on the world stage. Merits of the rapper's case aside, why is this unstable man still president?
Torben (Århus, Denmark)
I try to be very careful not to call other people "racists" - and whether Mr. Trump is a racist or not, other people must decide. But he is certainly a major opportunist. He was called a racist by the four democratic congresswomen and he needed an opportunity to get out of the mess. It came from Sweden and was presented to him on a silver plate - and he grabbed it with both hands. He went so far as to contact the Swedish PM, trying to make him intervene - the PM answered back giving Mr. Trump a lesson how equality for the law works in a civilized country. I wonder if Mr. Trump learned anything from the conversation. What Mr. Trump did was in reality an attempt to obstruct justice in another country - and that could be the reason why ASAP Rocky was not released on bail - the swedes had to demonstrate that they were not subject to pressure even from the president of the US - so they had to do things strictly by the book. So - if Mr. Trump is a racist or not is not for me to tell - but he is certainly a major opportunist - and as such not fit for leadership of anything else but maybe a construction company. The Americans have elected him, that is their choice - but as leader of the free world? - no thank you
Em (Germany)
@Torben this article has only just brought it to my attention that the defendant in the case is also Iranian. Given Trump's track record and the current racial tensions surrounding himself and the black community in the US, this can only be seen as opportunism at its finest.
Ane (Rikke)
@Torben; in Sweeden (and the other scandinavian countries) noone is _ever_ released ‘on bail’ - it is just not part of the justice system. So in asking for that Mr. Trump asked for somethong that simply could not happen at all...
CitizenTM (NYC)
Another of the cheap ploys by our national embarrassment to score in the media circus.
P&L (Cap Ferrat)
A$AP should write a song for Blexit. He should have Candace Owens in the music video.
P&L (Cap Ferrat)
I want to see A$AP in full MAGA gear when he arrives at JFK!
............ (......)
Why was Rocky not separated from the situation if he needed protection? I expect bodyguards to do that. Has Rocky and his men a history/reputation of violence?
Jim (NL)
@............because his “bodyguards “ are nothing more than thugs, not professionals. They seemed to have forgotten that they were not in the USA. You or your “bodyguard “ cannot abuse people without consequences
Wirfegen (Berlin)
I can only tell that this interference in the justice of Sweden is seen in German, French and Swedish media as autocratic. After what we've seen from Trump last years, obstruction of justice and ambiguous legal talks might be less important for the current US administration, and I see why Trump needs the story of saving a black rapper revealed himself recently, again, as a racist, but technically this interference is causing currently more damage to the US-EU relationships than the past year. This whole story will likely strengthen the EU alt-right parties that are, by the way, often anti-American and pro-Russia, even despite some connections to Trump or his aides, in case you missed it. In most EU countries there is no bail system, nor a celebrity or race bonus, or a US foreign politics bonus at court. There's also no jury at court, by the way, only professional judges and a few lay judges perhaps. I'm really keen to see how this legal mess ends thanks to the silly behavior of some US rapper who's not playing some big drama and causing legal and policy issues.
jazz one (Wisconsin)
I wonder how Otto Warmbler's family feels about this level of involvement by U.S. Or Jamal Khasoghi's (sp?) family, friends and colleagues. Or any other of the many journalists and activists held by dangerous, and actually murderous regimes like North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Iran, China, Myammar, the Philippines, oh, and Russia ... let us not forget Russia. No, I really don't wonder. I think I know, or at least know how I would feel in their place: Disgusted. Disheartened. Angry.
Jack (New Hampshire)
I hope A$AP Rocky comes out of Swedish jail like "I love free health care yeah that's my problem."
John (Pittsburgh/Cologne)
A$AP Rocky will be found innocent or guilty on some minor charge, with no jail and some restitution. He'll be back in the U.S. before Labor Day, and visiting the White House shortly after that. Trump will gain 3-4% among black voters, and similarly among young voters. And performing at the next Trump inaugural ball... Kanye West and A$AP Rocky (And liberals will still call Trump a racist.)
Larry D (Brooklyn)
@John —Trump is only a racist toward non-celebrity blacks. Admittedly a significant number.
Greg (Brooklyn)
@Larry D how's that? What'd he do?
Katherine Cagle (Winston-Salem, NC)
@John, you do realize Trump is only doing this because he currently needs cover for his racism? As Chris Wallace, certainly not a Democrat, said on his Fox News show, he isn't reading between the lines on Trump's racism. He is reading the lines.
Stefan SF (Paris)
So the ‘President’ is basically saying that Sweden is holding an American hostage. Which long-standing ally will the dear leader insult tomorrow?!
tom (boston)
Trump must not realize that Rocky is Black; otherwise, he wouldn't be standing up for him.
Get Honest Now! (USA)
Trump appears truly desperate to prove he’s not a horrible racist.
Sean (Germany)
Looks like Sweden wants to use Rocky as a scapegoat against POTUS government.
Olenska (New England)
@Sean: That’s a joke, right?
markymark (Lafayette, CA)
Does our federal government send hostage envoys all over the world when our citizens are accused of a crime? Or is this just a special situation because the rapper was smart enough declare himself a fan of our criminal president? If it's the latter then it's pathetic.
Greg (Brooklyn)
@markymark He's done it on many occasions. He also relaxed rules that make it criminal to pay a ransom to get a kidnapped loved one returned. Going after him for being personally involved with getting Americans back home seems like the wrong angle.
Olenska (New England)
Trump is showing remarkable persistence here. Compare how he handled the matter of Otto Warmbier, who disappeared in North Korea after a trial of sorts, only to be returned to the U.S. many months later blind, incontinent, and unable to speak, in a type of coma. Trump said he asked Kim Jung Un about Warmbier; Kim, he said, told him he knew nothing about what happened to this apparently healthy, fit young college student after he was found guilty and sentenced to hard labor. “And I believed him,” Trump remarked - and that was that. What a shame that those great humanitarians Kim Kardashian and Kanye West weren’t interested in Otto Warmbier.
Alexandra Hamilton (NY)
It is completely ridiculous for Trump to turn this into a diplomatic incident. Sweden has decent laws and a reputable judiciary. Just let the case go to trial and accept the verdict.
Marti Mart (Texas)
Oh yeah lets create an international incident for some Kardashian/Kanye friend. Sounds like a good plan! And a good choice of priorities for the POTUS. Maybe he'll drop Pence as VP for 2020 and go with Kim or Kanye.
Thomas B (St. Augustine)
The Swedes should lock this guy up just to show the United States who the boss in Sweden is.
Per Widström (Sweden)
What about a fair trial first?
Allan B (Newport RI)
Mr ASAP Rockys Swedish prison cell will probably look like a simple Ikea furnished hotel room. A far cry from, for instance, the cages the migrant kids on the US southern border are kept in.
Waleed (Paris)
@Allan B True but he still deserves a fair trial
PJ (Colorado)
"Sweden has let our African-American community down" What a strange statement. One assumes that justice in Sweden, as in most countries other than the US, is blind. Imagine if this had happened in the US. The president and his supporters wouldn't know whether to be outraged because four black men beat up someone or cheering because the person beaten up was quite likely a Muslim.
Sarasota (Florida)
Swedish prison might actually have some reformatory aspects. I think Mr. Rakim should spend some time there. Americans must be on their best behavior while traveling abroad.
Robert Gravatt (Bethesda, Maryland)
So something really happened “last night in Sweden”, but since it involves a friend of Kanye West Trump wants to grant a pardon.
Brian Casterline (Farmington Michigan)
The admission scandal, Epstein and this just shows the rot in our society because of the two different worlds in which working class people live and how the rich and powerful live. Money gets you access.
Thomas B (St. Augustine)
@Brian Casterline IME being in a labor union can get you access too, which is no doubt one of the reasons elites hate unions.
BH (Maryland)
@ThomasB conservatives hate unions. Not liberals.
Thomas B (St. Augustine)
@BH The liberals I know aren't members of elites; they're boilermakers, carpenters, steelworkers, truckers, teachers and other union members and retired union members. You know, you'd think conservatives would like unions since they're a market solution to a problem. I reckon conservatives don't think low wages and bad conditions are a problem.
Ari (Chicago)
Another ding on Trump; Swedes are smart enough to review the events objectively and apply Swedish laws. Regardless of Trump's efforts to expand voter base.
UWSer (Manhattan)
Amazing omnipotence on the part of those able to declare him innocent without full knowledge of the facts. And how exactly is racism a factor here?
stuckincali (l.a.)
ASAP Rocky should look on the bright side, if convicted. He will gain cred in the rap community, will probably get a new record, possibly a book, or movie deal , as some other incarcerated rappers have in the past.Honestly, I believe the guy that was assaulted; I live in Southern Ca, and oftentimes celebs and their bodyguards get very physical with bystanders. Add a possible language problem , and there will be trouble. Let's see if there is any camera evidence, rather that lawyer spin on the events that took place.
nf (New York, NY)
It sounds like ASAP a rep artist is trying to escape the law while his entourage assaulted an innocent pedestrian. It is satisfying to know that Sweden authorities are eager to uphold the law rather than cave in to a US President, notorious for obstructing justice, once again using his position to primarily accommodate Kim and Kanye to help their friend be released regardless of culpability.
Jonathan (Georgia)
As a dual national - I am an Afro American an Afro Swedish - I can attest that Sweden has some nice people but one should expect their system to be totalitarian and racist. The country is 98% European. Nonetheless, when I discovered one could be locked up for weeks with no bail for a simple fight I was shocked. There have been high profile cases of black soccer players being arrested unjustly because they broke off a relationship with a white female Swede. The Swedish court system is akin to a kangaroo court. The state has way too much power. ASAP Rocky case shines the light on a country that for far to long is given the label of the "consciousness of the world" but fails to live up to it. Maybe a push to allow bail will develop.
Sandra Kay (West Coast)
@Jonathan And perhaps bail will do what it does in the US: keeps poor and less powerful in jail. And in the US it is the poor, powerless people of color who get arrested (DWB), go to jail and stay there.
Madeleine (Stockholm, Sweden)
@Jonathan I dont know where you get the "98%" from. But in fact, 24% of all Swedish citizens are from abroad (official numbers). We are a diverse country. I've lived in Sweden all my life and I don't share your view at all that Sweden would be racist - on the contrary. Different cultures generally live together very well here - but we all know how media blows things out of proportion if something happens. Also, the state and its' managers work under almost full transparency. So I doubt what you say can be true without it leaking out to the public, causing them to be removed from the system. ASAP Rocky will get a fair trial like anyone else would.
Mark M (WI)
A “celebrity” I never heard off gets into a street fight at the door step of a bar, and get arrested for assault. Trump uses the office of the president to try to get him of the hook. Wow.
ellienyc (New York City)
Does Robert C. O'Brien live in Stockholm or at least somewhere nearby in Europe? If not, was money spent to fly him in, and house him, from elsewhere? Isn't this trial observation duty something usually done by employees of the local US consulate? Why wasn't it done here? I hope ASAP Rocky will reimburse US taxpayers for this extravagance.
DNA (Sweden)
@ellienyc Sweden is one of the many countries with no current U.S. Ambassador under the Trump administration. No doubt the Embassy is doing everything normally required for U.S. citizens, all without the expert guidance of Mr. O'Brien.
Sam Jack (Goddard, Kansas)
Is there any indication that the Swedish justice system is mishandling this case or violating ASAP Rocky's rights? I see nothing to that effect in this story. So I don't understand why the president has gotten involved: just because people on Twitter asked him to?
CitizenTM (NYC)
We are ruled by Twitter, if you have not noticed. I curse those ‘inventors’ every day .,.
Per Widström (Sweden)
Without personal experience of the justice system, the procedure seems normal. Usually, the accused person is free after a day of interrogation. In this case there is a risk for escaping the country, beeing a foreigner. A first time criminal seldom get prison unless extraordinary brutal behaviour.
George Washington (Congress)
This is the kind of european justice that I dislike most, 3 judges and no citizen.
Olenska (New England)
@George Washington: Cases are tried in the U.S. before judges alone (without juries) routinely. Appeals are heard by panels of judges - no juries. It’s a misnomer to call this “European justice.”
CitizenTM (NYC)
Citizens are more likely to be manipulated by conniving lawyers.
Katherine Cagle (Winston-Salem, NC)
@George Washington, a jury of one's peers is nice in theory but I wouldn't necessarily want to put my fate in the hands of a jury.
Maridee (USA)
That ASAP Rocky is in any shape or form a hostage is risible. Swedes must think our country is out of its everloving mind to have presidential intervention regarding basically a street fight.
Austin Plinth (Southern OR)
Love the sculpture of Blind Justice above the courthouse door. But where's her sword, replaced by a staff of wheat? The trial? Oh, yeah, right, the trail . . .
Austin Plinth (Southern OR)
@Austin Plinth Uh-oh, I may have to answer my own question - it's a laurel, as in laurel branch or wreath. See: The Greek goddess Themis. One could say . . . the staff holding the scales is symbolic of the sword.
Michael (MN)
I don’t understand this. Shouldn’t a rich famous person go through the same due process as any other citizen would? Would Trump intervene for any American in this situation or just the famous rapper? Talk about double standards and inequities between the rich and everyone else.
Jim (NL)
@Michael famous rapper? Really??
Phillip (Australia)
It is reassuring that, as an American living in Australia, the president will most assuredly send Ambassador O’Brien to negotiate my release after a bar fight. I mean, being held against my will (by the local police) would certainly warrant State Department intervention.
Former NBS student (Takoma Park, MD)
Sending a special envoy to the trial is not likely to help ASAP Rocky. It may actually prejudice his case.
Ray (Dallas)
Why can’t Americans get access to a speedy trial like in Sweden? If this were in the U.S, this trial wouldn’t take place until late 2020.
Former NBS student (Takoma Park, MD)
@Ray He's not getting a jury trial. In the US a defendant likely will get a judge-only trial quicker than a jury trial.
Anna (Bay Area)
@Ray He was in custody the entire time, something that wouldn't have happened if he were in the US. Defendants in custody want to exercise their speedy trial rights; defendants out of custody do not.
CitizenTM (NYC)
Nonsense. Watch THE NIGHT OF... three years in jail pre trial. Don’t defend the indefensibly broken system.
Camestegal (USA)
I wonder if somewhere sometime down the road when Trump is in court for offenses committed against USA whether Rocky will return the favor by a visit to the court to support a "great" American citizen.
uga muga (miami fl)
This is just a subset of current American foreign policy under Trump. Another street brawl added to the list.
David (NYC)
They will be found guilty and fined. And celebrities, including the so called President if the USA, should find something more worthwhile to concentrate on. As should we.
Robert Hogner (Vero Beach Fl)
@David perhaps a better last sentance? "As should three and we."
James Igoe (New York, NY)
Considering the increasing prominence of the attitude among Americans, Mr. Jafari's account seems very plausible, that an American bodyguard would assault someone first as a form of 'defense'. On the other hand, it's quite likely that Mr. Jafari's account should not be taken at face value, as in heated moments it is easy to incorrectly ascribe causes and effects. Regardless, I hope the video speaks for itself, that the timeline is clear and relatively unambiguous, to avoid accusations of racism and/or favoritism.
Anonymous (USA)
As an American who speaks a second language and has traveled abroad in several countries, I am generally unsympathetic to Americans acting recklessly abroad and balking at the consequences. If there is video of the incident, hopefully that will settle who is at fault. But I admit, the written accounts here make it sound extremely unlikely that the charges are unwarranted. All sides agree that four men nearly beat another man to death, correct? Sweden doesn't have stand your ground laws, and even if it did, I'm not sure there is a self-defense statute anywhere in the world that supports a four-on-one beat-down. If the video exonerates him, so be it. Otherwise let him rot in jail and be mocked daily for his very-American sense of arrogance and impunity.
James Igoe (New York, NY)
@Anonymous - There are multiple videos, and although Rocky's lawyer presented 2 seeming to side with Rocky, the prosecutor alluded to several more videos, spanning a larger period, and using that information, along with Sweden's different legal standards for assault and self-defense, indicted Rocky. Even then, considering the US's bias against African Americans, but its even stronger bias against people from the Middle East, and its accepting attitude about violence, it is quite possible Rocky would have been lightly charged, if at all.
aggreen62 (texas)
@Anonymous "All sides agree that four men nearly beat another man to death, correct? " <-- No. That's not correct.The article states that Mr. Jafari suffered cuts to his face, arms, and hands that required 13 stitches. It does not say that any of the cuts were life threatening.
Matt (Bridgewater NJ)
Sounds like they are all responsible in some way. High ranking government officials should not be intervening in what is an basic assault case.
See also