STOCKHOLM – American rapper A$AP Rocky, whose case garnered international attention after celebrities and President Donald Trump came to his defense, returned to the United States late Friday night, according to Los Angeles TV reports. He was released from custody earlier on Friday as he and two associates await an Aug. 14 verdict on assault charges.
A lawyer for the defendants, who had been detained in Sweden since early July, confirmed that the three men were free to travel outside of the country now that their trial has ended.
Prior to the artist's return, Trump welcomed the outcome in a tweet. "A$AP Rocky released from prison and on his way home to the United States from Sweden," Trump tweeted. "It was a Rocky Week, get home ASAP A$AP!"
On Instagram, the rapper thanked his "FANS, FRIENDS AND ANYONE ACROSS THE GLOBE WHO SUPPORTED ME DURING THESE LAST FEW WEEKS."
He has made no public comment on whether he would return to Sweden for the verdict. If found guilty, all three could face fines and up to two years in prison.
The case heightened tensions between the United States and Sweden last month after Trump urged the Swedish prime minister to release the rapper. Swedish leaders criticized Trump, saying they viewed his request as an attempt to interfere with the country's independent judiciary.
Swedish authorities arrested the 30-year-old rapper and two of his associates, Bladimir Emilio Corniel and David Tyrone Rispers, in early July on charges of violent assault after a June 30 street fight with a 19-year-old man, Mustafa Jafari.
All have pleaded not guilty and Rocky, whose birth name is Rakim Mayers, has said he acted in self-defense after Jafari accosted him. As the day began Friday, supporters of the rapper shouted "Free Rocky!" when his mother entered the courthouse. When the judge released Rocky, fans outside the building celebrated by playing his music.
One supporter, Emina Moreira, 19, said Rocky has been treated unfairly by the Swedish court system and blamed racism as a possible cause. But Zakaria Anwar, 26, also a fan of the U.S. rapper, said he trusts the Swedish justice system - even if Rocky and his associates are found guilty. That Sweden is "not trying to get affected by things Donald Trump is saying" made him proud, Anwar said.
Sweden's justice system is ranked among the world's most respected, but the rapper's arrest and weekslong detention without charges have sparked an outcry in the United States.
Kim Kardashian West, Kanye West and Justin Bieber called for his release, as did Democratic members of Congress. Rep. Adriano Espaillat, D-N.Y., who advocated for the trio's release, said in an interview Friday that he is "cautiously optimistic" about the upcoming verdict.
"I've always said throughout this whole ordeal, going on a month now, that these young men were innocent, that, in fact, they were pushed to the precipice and had to react in self-defense," Espaillat said.
Rocky found a particularly influential - albeit unlikely - ally in Trump. In a tweet, Trump called on the Swedish government to free the rapper and focus on its "real crime problem" - an apparent reference to migrants. Migration status has weighed heavily in this case, as the plaintiff is from Afghanistan and has a criminal record.
"Sweden has let our African American Community down in the United States," Trump wrote on Twitter - a suggestion the Swedes resoundingly rejected. Some speculated that Trump got involved in Rocky's case to divert attention from his racist comments against four minority congresswomen.
Trump also dispatched his hostage affairs envoy, Robert O'Brien, to Stockholm to attend this week's trial – a move that has been widely ridiculed in Sweden. O'Brien called the release "the right decision."
But Daniel Suneson, a prosecutor involved in the case, cautioned that the trio's release should not be interpreted to mean they will be exonerated.
"We will have to await the court's ruling on 14 August," he said.