XXXTentacion: Jury finds three men guilty for 2018 murder of Florida rapper
Three men have been found guilty of the 2018 murder of rapper XXXTentacion who was shot in broad daylight in South Florida while being robbed of $50,000 (£40,757).
Michael Boatwright, 28, Dedrick Williams, 26, and Trayvon Newsome, 24, were all found guilty of first-degree murder and armed robbery by a jury after seven days of deliberation.
They will receive mandatory life sentences at a later date; prosecutors did not seek the death penalty, which is still technically in operation in Florida, in the case.
During the monthlong trial, prosecutors linked the men to the June 18, 2018, shooting outside Riva Motorsports in suburban Fort Lauderdale through extensive surveillance video taken inside and outside the store, plus cellphone videos they took that showed them flashing fistfuls of $100 bills hours after the slaying.
Prosecutors also had the testimony of a fourth man, Robert Allen, a former friend of the defendants who said he participated in the robbery. He pleaded guilty last year to second-degree murder. He has not been sentenced pending the conclusion of this trial. He could get anywhere between time served, meaning he could soon be released, and life, depending partly on how prosecutors perceive his assistance.
Defence attorneys accused Allen of being a liar motivated by avoiding a life sentence. They also said prosecutors and detectives did a poor investigation that didn’t look at other possible suspects, including the Canadian rap star Drake; he and XXXTentacion had an online feud.
Twice this week, the jury asked to review text messages from Boatwright, whom prosecutors identified as the shooter, from the day of the shooting. A printout from prosecutors shows that from the time he woke up about 10:30 a.m. until 3 p.m., about an hour before the shooting, he sent 17 to various people, including one about getting a car. Prosecutors say the SUV used in the shooting was rented from a woman through a phone app. He then stopped texting for about two hours.
About an hour after the shooting, he sent a text saying, “Tell my brother I got the money for the new phone.” Minutes after that, he sent someone a screenshot of a news story saying XXXTentacion had been shot.
XXXTentacion, whose real name was Jahseh Onfroy, had just left Riva Motorsports with a friend when his BMW was blocked by an SUV that swerved in front.
Surveillance video showed two masked gunmen emerging and confronting the 20-year-old singer at the driver’s window, and one shot him repeatedly. They then grabbed a Louis Vuitton bag containing cash XXXTentacion had just withdrawn from the bank, got back into the SUV and sped away. The friend was not harmed.
Newsome was accused of being the other gunman. Williams was accused of being the driver of the SUV, with Allen also inside.
Allen testified that the men set out that day to commit robberies and went to the motorcycle shop to buy Williams a mask. There they spotted the rapper and decided to make him their target. Allen and Williams went inside the shop to confirm it was him. They then went back to the SUV they had rented, waited for XXXTentacion to emerge and ambushed him, according to testimony.
The rapper, who pronounced his name “Ex ex ex ten-ta-see-YAWN,” was a platinum-selling rising star who tackled issues including prejudice and depression in his songs. Onfrey was facing 15 felony charges when he died and was accused of multiple instances of domestic abuse.
Additional reporting by The Associated Press.