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XXXTentacion Trial: Three Men Found Guilty of Murdering Rapper in 2018

Dedrick Williams, Michael Boatwright, and Trayvon Newsome were all convicted of first-degree murder and armed robbery

XXXTentacion trial

Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun-Sentinel/AP

Three men have been found guilty of murdering XXXTentacion outside a motorcycle shop in Florida in 2018.

Dedrick Williams, Michael Boatwright, and Trayvon Newsome were all found guilty of first-degree murder and armed robbery. The verdict came Monday, March 20, after seven days of deliberation (not including last Friday, with the judge granting a day off for jurors to take care of personal affairs). Closing arguments in the case wrapped on Wednesday, March 8.

The trial began back in February, nearly five years after XXXTentacion — real name Jahseh Onfroy — was shot and killed on June 18, 2018 at the age of 20. Lead prosecutor Pascale Achille argued that Onfroy was killed in a robbery gone wrong: She said the suspects planned to commit armed robberies that day, but only happened upon Onfroy at the motorcycle shop because that’s where they’d stopped to buy masks. Though that encounter was a coincidence, Achille claimed the suspects recognized Onfroy and decided to rob him as he left the store.

Achille claimed the suspects blocked Onfroy’s car as he tried to leave the dealership. A struggle ensued as Boatwright and Newsome allegedly wrestled away a bag from Onfroy with $50,000 cash in it. Achille then said Boatwright shot Onfroy several times “without any provocation.”

The prosecution built its case around surveillance footage, cellphone data that allegedly linked the suspects to the motorcycle shop, as well as social media posts that allegedly showed them flashing the money they stole form Onfroy. Arguably most important was the testimony of Robert Allen, a fourth suspect who pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and armed robbery with a firearm last year.

Allen spent several days testifying during the trial, during which he discussed how he and the other suspects wound up at the motorcycle shop and the on-the-spot decision to target Onfroy. Allen said it was Williams who convinced the group to confront Onfroy, and that it was Boatwright who shot him. Allen also said he decided not to take part in the robbery because he “was on camera” at the store, though he did say he still got a cut of $5,000 (while the other three allegedly took $15,000 each).

The three defense attorneys tried to dent Allen’s credibility throughout the trial, with one of them calling him a “liar” during closing arguments, and another bringing up his past felony convictions. Achille acknowledged Allen wasn’t a perfect witness in her own closing rebuttal, saying, “Plans hatched in hell do not have angels for witnesses.”

Along with hammering Allen, the defense attorneys tried to find other ways to drum up as much reasonable doubt as possible. Lawyers for both Boatwright and Newsome tried to argue that their clients were not present at the killing, with Boatwright’s lawyer, Joseph Kimok, claiming his client was asleep at home at the time of the shooting.

During closing arguments, Kimok claimed that there was no DNA evidence connecting his client, or the other two defendants to the murder. Even though Onfroy engaged in a struggle with his killers before he was shot, Kimok said that the DNA found on the late rapper did not match Boatwright, Newsome, or Williams: “Whoever [Onfroy] struggled with is not in this courtroom,” Kimok said. “The DNA proves that someone not named Michael Boatwright or Trayvon Newsome participated in this murder.”

Meanwhile, Newsome’s attorney, George Reres, made similar arguments and also encouraged the jury not to be swayed by the social media posts showing the suspects with the money. “He did some stupid things — he posed with some money,” Reres said. “Guilt by association is not something the law permits.”

The boldest defense strategy, however, was adopted by Williams’ attorney, Mauricio Padilla, who spent the early parts of the trial trying to rope in Drake (real name Aubrey Graham). Padilla alleged that Graham was somehow involved in Onfroy’s death, a theory that prosecutors never floated, nor gave any credence.

But Padilla sought to raise doubts by highlighting an alleged feud between Graham and Onfroy, even citing in his opening argument a Feb. 2018 social media post from Onfroy that read, “If anyone tries to kill me it was @champagnepapi [Drake’s Instagram handle]. I’m snitching right now.” (Onfroy later deleted that post — as well as a few other incendiary posts — and wrote, “Please stop entertaining that bullshit on Twitter. My accounts were previously hacked.”)

Padilla’s efforts even involved trying to get Graham to sit for a deposition in the trial, leading to a multi-week back-and-forth over the matter. Eventually, the judge ruled that Graham would not be deposed due to lack of evidence of his involvement. Nevertheless, Padilla persisted with the tactic to a certain degree, claiming in his closing arguments that Broward County sheriff’s detectives didn’t do enough to investigate other possible suspects, like Drake.

From Rolling Stone US