A$AP Rocky’s Fate Hangs in the Balance as Trial Decision Looms Over Shooting Charges against Former Friend

A$AP Rocky’s Fate Hangs in the Balance as Trial Decision Looms Over Shooting Charges against Former Friend

A$AP Rocky, the rap star and father of two children with Rihanna, will find out on Monday whether he will stand trial on charges of firing a gun at a former friend and collaborator outside a hotel in Hollywood. The 35-year-old artist has pleaded not guilty to two felony counts of assault with a semiautomatic firearm. The incident allegedly took place on November 6, 2021, outside the W. Hotel, where Rocky pointed a handgun at Terell Ephron and later fired shots that grazed Ephron’s knuckles.

During the hearing earlier this month, Ephron, who was once known as A$AP Relli, testified that he and Rocky were close friends since their teenage years when they were part of the A$AP collective, a group of New York high school students aspiring to make music and pursue other art forms. However, their friendship began to deteriorate after Rocky allegedly failed to fulfill promised business ventures and neglected the other members of their high school collective. The tension escalated and culminated in the 2021 shooting incident, according to Ephron.

Prosecutors presented surveillance video footage that captured part of the incident, showing Rocky allegedly brandishing a gun and potentially firing it. However, Rocky’s defense lawyers deny these claims. The rapper was arrested at Los Angeles International Airport in April and charged in August. He attended the November 8 hearing, as is typically required in felony cases, and is expected to be present in court on Monday.

Rocky, a two-time Grammy nominee, gained popularity with his first two studio albums in 2013 and 2015, both of which reached No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart. In recent years, he has released limited music and is now more recognized as Rihanna’s romantic partner, fellow fashion influencer, and co-parent. Notably, he received support from former President Donald Trump, who advocated for his release and return to the United States after his arrest following a brawl in Sweden in 2019. Rocky was ultimately found guilty of assault but received a “conditional sentence” without additional jail time.

For his defense in the Los Angeles case, Rocky has enlisted the representation of Joe Tacopina, a lawyer known for representing Trump in his New York criminal case and others. Tacopina engaged in a contentious cross-examination of Ephron during his testimony, insinuating that Ephron fabricated the incident for financial gain, as he has also filed a civil lawsuit.

In California courts, preliminary hearings like this serve as a condensed version of a trial, with only a judge determining whether there is sufficient evidence to proceed. The burden of proof is significantly lower compared to establishing criminal guilt. Superior Court Judge M.L. Villar may announce a decision on advancing to trial as early as Monday, although the length of testimony or the ruling itself could prolong the process.