On Monday, a Los Angeles judge is scheduled to weigh the evidence against A$AP Rocky, the 35-year-old rap artist and father of two children with Rihanna, to determine whether he should stand trial on two felony counts of assault with a semiautomatic firearm. Rocky has pleaded not guilty to the charges, and the decision could have significant legal consequences for him.
The allegations stem from an incident outside the W. Hotel in Hollywood on November 6, 2021. Prosecutors contend that Rocky pointed a handgun at Terell Ephron, a former friend and collaborator, and subsequently fired shots that grazed Ephron’s knuckles, resulting in minor injuries.
During the preliminary hearing earlier this month, Ephron, formerly known as A$AP Relli, testified that he and Rocky were close friends during their teenage years as part of the A$AP collective, a group of New York high school students with a shared interest in music and the arts. Their friendship endured even after Rocky’s rise to stardom. However, it began to deteriorate when Ephron felt that Rocky had not fulfilled promised business commitments and had neglected other members of their high school collective who were facing challenges. The tension culminated in the alleged shooting incident in 2021.
Prosecutors presented surveillance video during the hearing, which seemed to capture part of the altercation, showing Rocky holding a gun, possibly firing it, though his defense team denies his involvement in the shooting.
Rocky was arrested in April at Los Angeles International Airport and subsequently charged in August. He attended the November 8 hearing, as is customary in felony cases, and is expected to be present in court on Monday.
A$AP Rocky, a two-time Grammy nominee, enjoyed chart-topping success with his first two studio albums in 2013 and 2015. However, in recent years, he has released limited music and gained recognition as a fashion influencer and the romantic partner and co-parent of Rihanna, with whom he welcomed a second child in May.
In an unexpected turn of events, former President Donald Trump advocated for Rocky’s release when the rapper was detained in Sweden after a brawl in 2019. Although Rocky was found guilty of assault at trial, he received a “conditional sentence” that did not entail additional jail time.
In the current Los Angeles case, Rocky is represented by attorney Joe Tacopina, who previously represented Trump in a New York criminal case and others. Tacopina engaged in a contentious cross-examination of Ephron during his November 8 testimony, suggesting that Ephron was fabricating the incident for financial gain, as he had also filed a civil lawsuit related to the matter.
Preliminary hearings in California serve as a condensed version of a trial, with a judge determining whether there is sufficient evidence to proceed. The standard of proof for such hearings is notably lower than that required for establishing criminal guilt. Superior Court Judge M.L. Villar is expected to make a decision on whether the case should proceed to trial, and this decision could have significant implications for A$AP Rocky’s legal future.