Judge Upholds PnB Rock Murder Charges, Rejects Suggestion Rapper ‘Scared’ His Shooter

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PnB Rock during BET Experience on June 22, 2019 in Los Angeles, CA.  - Credit: Michael Kovac/Getty Images/BET
PnB Rock during BET Experience on June 22, 2019 in Los Angeles, CA. - Credit: Michael Kovac/Getty Images/BET

The California dad charged with helping his teen son plot what turned into the deadly armed robbery of rapper PnB Rock failed to get his murder charges dropped Friday with arguments including one that suggested the son may have fired out of “fear.”

At a morning hearing in Compton, Calif., a judge said that while much of the evidence against Freddie Trone, 42, is circumstantial, she found a “reasonable basis” to conclude Trone held a position of “influence” over his 17-year-old son and knew he possessed a gun when he walked into the Roscoe’s Chicken ‘N Waffles in South Los Angeles and shot the “Middle Child” artist on Sept. 12, 2022. “Whether his son shot in a panic is all speculation. It’s not on the video,” Judge Tammy Chung Ryu said from the bench.

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In his written dismissal motion and oral arguments before the ruling, Trone’s defense lawyer, Winston McKesson, said there was no evidence his client supplied the gun or “instructed” his son to pull the trigger. He also claimed the shooter may have fired as a reaction to something PnB Rock, born Rakim Allen, did in response to the demand for his jewelry. “From the video camera in the restaurant, it is unclear what Mr. Rakim was doing with his hands after he was approached by Mr. Trone’s son. (The teen) could have been in fear for his own life,” McKesson wrote in his filings.

“This was a kid,” McKesson argued in court Friday. “You cannot see under the table to see what the victim may have been doing to cause this kid to get scared and shoot.” Asked about the suggestion after the hearing, McKesson said he wasn’t speaking for the son, simply arguing there was “no planned murder.”

The judge wasn’t having it. She said the shooter was caught on video walking from the direction of his dad into the restaurant with a gun in his hand, not hidden. Judge Ryu said a reasonable person might conclude the dad “would have known his son had a gun and was going to use it in the robbery and the robbery can go wrong, and somebody could get killed.”

“Mr. Jones was in a position to dictate what his son did,” Judge Ryu said as she denied the dismissal motion. She said it’s possible a jury won’t find enough evidence to convict Trone of murder, but she found sufficient evidence to warrant a trial on charges he showed “a reckless disregard for human life” and “assisted” his son “knowing someone could get killed.”

Trone has pleaded not guilty to one count of murder, two counts of robbery, and one count of conspiracy. He appeared in court Friday along with his co-defendant Tremont Jones, a man who prosecutors say fist-bumped Allen as he entered the restaurant with his girlfriend, Stephanie Sibounheuang, before the shooting. It’s alleged that Jones tipped off Trone and his son to the rapper’s whereabouts and handed over an object retrieved from his sedan shortly before the shooting. Jones also dialed Trone’s phone number around the time of the slaying, prosecutors allege. He has pleaded not guilty to two counts of robbery and one count of conspiracy.

At the hearing Friday, Jones refused to agree to another pre-trial delay, forcing the judge to order all the parties back to court on Monday to set a speedy trial date, possibly this month. With at least two lawyers on the case engaged in other trials, it’s expected the judge will find “good cause” to delay the trial beyond mid-March, but she’ll have to weigh the lawyers’ schedules against Jones’ right to face a jury.

Another defendant in the case, Wynisha Evans, is charged with being an accessory after the fact for allegedly driving Freddie Trone from Los Angeles to Las Vegas after the murder to help him escape a public manhunt, according to court filings. Evans was in court Friday and was ordered back March 12 for a planned plea deal.

As Rolling Stone first reported, authorities arrested Trone, his teen son and his wife, Shauntel Trone, in late September 2022 after connecting the alleged getaway car seen on surveillance video with a Buick Enclave found torched and abandoned just blocks from the Trones’ residence in Gardena, Calif. (Shauntel Trone was charged with being an accessory after the fact and has pleaded not guilty.)

Allen’s stunning daylight murder rocked the hip-hop industry and robbed the world of a talented rapper whose melodic flow straddled hip-hop and R&B. Rolling Stone named him a New Artist You Need to Know in 2016, and he later rocketed to crossover fame with his 2019 feature on Ed Sheeran’s “Cross Me.

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