In early July, rapper A$AP Rocky—whose real name is Rakim Mayers—was arrested in Sweden after a physical altercation with two men outside a Stockholm burger restaurant. The alleged victim, 19-year-old Mustafa Jafari, claimed that Rocky and two associates, Bladimir Corniel and David Rispers Jr., beat him and attacked him with glass bottles, causing broken ribs and cuts requiring stitches. Rocky asserted that the man had followed and harassed them, and that he and his team acted only in self-defense. Detained for nearly a month pending the results of an investigation and his subsequent criminal trial, Rocky was forced to cancel the remainder of his European tour and festival dates in July.
The circumstances of Rocky's arrest and the three-plus weeks he spent in jail—Sweden has no bail system—quickly transformed the matter into a cause célèbre. Kim Kardashian West, who has been active in criminal justice reform-related matters during the Trump administration, reportedly asked White House senior advisor Jared Kushner to appeal to his father-in-law for help. The president began tweeting his support for Rocky on July 19, and dispatched Robert O’Brien—the White House's special envoy for hostage affairs—to monitor the situation in Stockholm. A State Department spokesperson told Politico that Rocky's arrest and detention raised "concerns," and urged Sweden "to treat American citizens fairly and with respect."
Trump also asked Swedish prime minister Stefan Löfven to intervene in the case, and even offered to personally guarantee Rocky's bail; Löfven declined, however, much to his counterpart's disappointment.
On July 25, prosecutors charged Rocky, Corniel, and Rispers with assault causing actual bodily harm, to which all three pleaded not guilty. At the conclusion of a four-day trial, Rocky was released from custody on August 2 and departed for the United States hours later. A final verdict in his case is expected on August 14. In the meantime, I asked Eric Bylander, a professor of procedural law at Sweden's Uppsala University and a recent visiting professor at the University of Minnesota Law School, to explain how A$AP Rocky's case got to this point—and how it is likely to conclude.
GQ: What does Rocky's release signal, if anything, about how the court will likely rule?
Prof. Eric Bylander: It is an indication that there will be no imprisonment. Likely, he will either be acquitted, or receive some sentence other than prison. For example, if he gets a sentence of one month, they will say it was already served through his time spent in detention.
One month could be a likely sentence length, especially if he's found not guilty of using that bottle he's alleged to have used [in the assault]. Prison sentences here are nothing compared the the U.S.; they are very short.
So his release is likely a signal about how the judge will rule, and not a product of diplomatic pressure or his celebrity status?
There is a very strong independence of the judicial and administrative bodies in Sweden. A specific provision of the Swedish constitution limits the powers of both parliament and the government to intervene in judicial rulings. No public authority may determine how a court is to adjudicate an individual case, or apply a rule of law. My guess is that Rocky has received no special treatment due to the fact that he's so famous, or due to pressure applied by President Trump.
Do I understand correctly that Sweden does not actually have a bail system that could have allowed Rocky to get out of jail after his arrest?
That's correct. We haven't had bail since 1734. I have [researched] why we haven't reestablished anything like it, and there is nothing to be found, actually. There are arguments about not making a difference between rich and poor defendants. It's probably a matter of tradition and culture.
We do force people to come to hearings in Sweden, and make them pay a fee if they don't show up. That's not far from the bail system. But if the crime is serious enough for detention, the prosecutor usually asks for it. Formally, it is possible for the court to order detention, but I'd say they never do it on their own motion.
In the U.S., Rocky's would typically be a trial by jury. Why is that not true in Sweden?
We almost don't use juries at all. They're only used in very special cases related to freedom of the press and freedom of information, and even that is a historical relic.
However, we do have "lay judges." The ordinary set-up of a court is that you have a law-learned judge who presides, and he judges together with three lay judges. Lay judges serve are not legally trained, and it isn't a full-time job, but they get more experience than jurors. And they sit together with the law-learned judge and decide the case.
Closing arguments took place on August 2, but the verdict isn't due until August 14. What is the purpose of the delay? What is the court doing right now?
If they were quite sure about the verdict, they could have presented it right after closing arguments, or within a few hours. The court first has to decide about keeping him in detention, which means they have to make up their minds: Do we think we'll sentence him to prison? If not, they don't have to decide what will happen to him right then.
Next, they meet to deliberate—maybe on Monday, for example, if they ended late on Friday. They speak about what they saw and heard during the trial, and what to make of it from both a legal and an evidentiary point of view. And then the judgement shall be made and delivered. I have been a judge myself, and I know that in a high-profile case when you know a lot of people will read the judgment, you usually work more on it than you would in an ordinary case. That could be a practical implication that makes this delay necessary.
How will the court consider Rocky's claims that the alleged victim was harassing him, and appeared to be under the influence of drugs? Does that sort of thing factor into the law of assault in Sweden?
Yes. If that were the only thing that happened in this case, the person doing that—the alleged victim—could be found guilty of a sort of assault. But there was a preliminary investigation of that person, and the prosecutor decided not to move forward. I can't explain why. It might have been that the violence with which [the victim] was met makes it less likely that he will be sentenced for [his conduct], or something like that.
It will be taken into account when deciding if Rocky committed a crime, though. And if it is a crime, it won't be seen as as serious as it would be if there were no provocation.
So harassment could be sort of like a mitigating factor?
Indeed. It most likely will be in this case.
Could the concept of self-defense play a role in the judge's ruling?
Yes. The level of force used has to be proportionate, and they will consider whether it was here. If you use a lot more force than is needed to avoid an attack, you might be sentenced anyway.
Could Jafari sue Rocky in civil court?
Sweden allows for the possibility of combining a civil lawsuit with a criminal proceeding, and that option was used in this case. If you [as an alleged victim] choose to combine them, you get the advantage of having the prosecutor do most of the work. So [Jafari] is already seeking damages in this trial. But if you use that opportunity, you can't sue after the criminal trial—it's res judicata, already decided.
Are civil awards common in cases like this one?
Yes, but the amounts are considered quite low by international standards. I think [Jafari] filed for around $15,000, and I'd say it wouldn't be that much.
Does a not-guilty verdict affect this possibility? If Rocky is found not guilty, could he still be civilly liable?
We could have had a situation like that if [Jafari] hadn't combined the civil case with the criminal case. But Swedish law says that if civil and criminal liability are combined into one action, they should follow each other. We don't want an O.J. Simpson-like situation where you are both not guilty and liable.
If he is found not guilty, could the prosecutor appeal?
Yes, so this might be the first two rounds of his court case. An additional appeal to the Supreme Court is possible, but the Supreme Court here works like the U.S. Supreme Court, and only takes cases where there is an unclear point of law.
What happens if Rocky does receive additional prison time?
First, Sweden would ask him to come and serve time. If he doesn't comply, Swedish authorities would have to ask the U.S. to extradite him. But if the U.S. doesn't want to extradite him, he couldn't be forced to come.
This conversation has been edited for clarity.
Originally Appeared on GQ