Nearly five years after rising rap star XXXTentacion was shot and killed in broad daylight when his polarizing career exploded during a 2018 robbery, a jury in Florida ended more than a week of deliberations Monday when it found three men. Convicted of first degree murder in the case.
Michael Boatwright, 28, and Trayvon Newsom, 24, were the gunmen on a June afternoon, prosecutors said, when Boatwright opened fire in a fight over money. A third man to be charged, Detrick Williams, 26, is said to be the driver and mastermind of the robbery.
All three face mandatory life sentences; Prosecutors did not seek the death penalty in the case, which was heard at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Surveillance video played in court shows the rapper’s BMW trying to leave a motorsports store in Deerfield Beach, Fla., was blocked by an SUV, leading to a confrontation with two masked assailants who escaped with $50,000 in cash.
The trial turned largely on the jury’s interpretation of the testimony of Robert Allen, a fourth man who pleaded guilty last year to second-degree murder. Broward County prosecutors relied on store surveillance video that appeared to show two people inside, XXXTentacion (born Jahseh Onfroy), and cellphone and Bluetooth data linking the men to the location and the SUV.
The testimony included videos that prosecutors said showed the defendants dancing and posing with the money hours after the murders.
During more than 27 hours of deliberations over eight days, jurors were asked to review more than 1,000 text messages, as well as photos and videos captured from two of the defendants’ cellphones, including a picture of a news report about the shooting.
Defense attorneys for Boatwright, Newsom and Williams, who were tried together, argued that DNA evidence failed to link them to the shooting. (The jury was asked to decide each man’s guilt or innocence separately, and could convict only one or two of the accused.)
The defense vaguely pointed to other theories of guilt — including a behind-the-scenes fight that tried to include information about XXXTentacion’s online beef with megastar Drake, who successfully fought to avoid dismissal in the case. They also said that Allen, who had a previous criminal record, was an unreliable witness.
“Witnesses have no angels in hell’s plans,” said Pascal Achille, chief prosecutor, said in his rebuttal After concluding the arguments.
The four were planning a robbery that day when they walked into XXXTentacion at a motorcycle shop where they were hoping to buy a mask, prosecutors argued. After confirming the identity of the musician inside, the men waited for him in the parking lot and pulled up in front of his car, allowing the gunmen to attack the two men, who covered their faces. A passenger traveling with XXXTentacion fled, and a fight over the rapper’s Louis Vuitton bag, which contained $50,000, ended when Botwright shot the rapper, prosecutors said.
XXXTentacion, 20, a singer, songwriter and rapper who mixed genres and first landed on the streaming platform SoundCloud, was high on the roller coaster of viral fame when he was killed.
In the 18 months before filming, he went from a little-known, troubled teenager making music in his bedroom to the top of the Billboard charts with his anarchic breakout single, “Look at Me!” and a follow-up album, “?,” which peaked at no. Introduced in 1
At the same time, he was awaiting trial on charges of battery, false imprisonment and witness tampering as a result of the violent assault of an ex-girlfriend.
“If I’m going to die or if I’m ever going to make a sacrifice, I want to make sure that my life makes at least five million children happy, or regardless of the negativity surrounding my name, they find some answers or solutions in my life, regardless of the bad things people say to me,” the rapper said in a video posted on social media before his death.
Since his murder, XXXTentacion — whose astonishing vision has become enshrined in the iconography of modern hip-hop — has been the subject of the documentary “Look at Me” and has posthumously been featured on albums by Kanye West and Lil Wayne. Music released under his name.