A$AP Rocky is adamant he didn’t shoot his former friend A$AP Relli on a Los Angeles street corner two years ago and is hoping for a trial by September, his lawyer said after a court hearing Monday. Minutes earlier, the Grammy-nominated musician entered a new not guilty plea that was necessary because a judge ruled in November that prosecutors had enough evidence to warrant trial on two felony counts of assault with a semiautomatic firearm.
Outside the re-arraignment, defense lawyer Joe Tacopina said the “Praise the Lord” rapper is confident he’ll be vindicated and eager to get a trial “over with so he can start enjoying his family.” Rocky, born Rakim Mayers, famously shares two young sons with superstar singer Rihanna.
Tacopina, known for representing high-profile clients including Meek Mill, YG, and Donald Trump, said Rocky is “cool as a cucumber” ahead of his next hearing set for March 6. “He’s a very strong character, a very strong individual,” Tacopina said.
Mayers, 35, walked into the courtroom Monday wearing a gray suit, tie and dark sunglasses. He removed the glasses as his case was called and spoke only a few words during the short proceeding. After helping Los Angeles County Judge Karla D. Kerlin correctly pronounce his name, he confirmed he understood the charges. The musician is battling allegations he opened fire on the corner of of Selma Ave. and Vista Del Mar Ave. on Nov. 6, 2021, allegedly grazing Relli on his left hand.
Relli testified at a two-day preliminary hearing in November that Mayers brandished a gun during their initial street-level confrontation outside a Hollywood hotel and then fired about a block away. A soundless surveillance video shown during the preliminary hearing shows a group of men involved in a scuffle at the intersection, but “you don’t see an actual shooting on the video,” Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge M.L. Villar said as she sent the case to trial.
A different video from a camera around the corner could prove pivotal. Also shown during the preliminary hearing, it captured two loud pops with a timestamp matching the alleged shooting. Seconds after the pops are heard, a man identified by prosecutors as Mayers is seen rounding the corner and slowing down to a walk in front of the neighboring buildings.
In his extensive testimony on Nov. 8, Relli, born Terell Ephron, claimed he was the victim of an armed ambush. Ephron said he sent Mayers an embittered text on Oct. 28, 2021, because he believed Mayers had become “big-headed” and had failed to deliver on a promise to pay funeral expenses for a friend. “You so fucking fake it’s sad,” the text shown on a screen in court read. (Under cross-examination, Ephron said he eventually learned Mayers paid for the entire funeral.)
Mayers previously pleaded not guilty to the same charges, claiming through Tacopina that he was the victim of a shakedown. Tacopina suggested in November that Relli perjured himself when he testified that he never asked for millions of dollars in exchange for making the criminal case disappear.
“He swore under oath (that) no, he did not. That’s not going to bode well for him at trial,” Tacopina said of Ephron. “Common sense is going to prevail and we’re going to get (Mayers) through this, and he’s going to be vindicated,” Tacopina said. “The evidence we have that they don’t know about is going to be devastating — devastating.”
During the second day of the preliminary hearing on Nov. 20, Tacopina grilled LAPD Det. Frank Flores over the police investigation. Though private security footage collected from a parking garage on Argyle Ave. purportedly shows a gun in Mayers’ hands when he and Relli first met face-to-face outside the W Hotel, the detective conceded no weapons were ever recovered in the case.
The detective also acknowledged the grainy video recorded at the intersection of the alleged shooting was inconclusive. “(There’s) nothing clear that shows it,” Flores testified, referring to the purported shooting. The detective tried to add that all the videos taken “collectively” tell a plausible story, but Tacopina shut him down. “I’m not asking for opinion,” Tacopina interrupted, asking again if the blurry video showed a shooting. “Nothing definitively shows,” the detective answered. The investigator said no fingerprints were found on the two shell casings allegedly found at the scene by Relli and handed over to police two days later.
During his live testimony, Ephron claimed Mayers pulled out a firearm at the parking garage and threatened, “I’ll kill you right now.” Ephron said he dared Mayers to fire. “Shoot that shit. Why you brought a gun if you’re not going to use it? You don’t scare me,” he allegedly told Mayers. Ephron testified that people were walking nearby, so Mayers allegedly put the gun in his waistband and started to walk away.
“I was talking a bunch of shit,” Ephron said. “I was letting (Mayers) know how much he failed everybody, because nobody else was brave enough to say how they feel about this man.” Ephron said he told Mayers one of their friends was suffering from a crack addiction while another was living in the projects. “I wasn’t doing anything physically. I was just so mad. It didn’t sit well with me, and I wanted him to hear my side. I knew I was never going to see this man again,” Ephron testified.
He claimed Mayers eventually turned around and fired an initial shot. He claimed he rushed to grab fellow A$AP Mob member Illijah Ulanger, also known as A$AP Illz, to use him “as a shield.” He said Mayers fired two or three more times before everyone fled the scene. He said he returned later that night and found two 9mm shell casings.
Mayers is also fighting a lawsuit brought by Ephron alleging assault, battery, negligence, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. As first reported by Rolling Stone, the civil complaint filed in August 2022 unmasked Ephron as the alleged victim in the shooting investigation that led to Mayers’ arrest in April 2022.
In his response to the lawsuit, Tacopina told Rolling Stone that his client didn’t shoot anyone and was the victim of a failed shakedown. “Rocky didn’t shoot him by any stretch,” Tacopina said, calling the assault allegation a “false scenario” at the heart of “a plain and blatant classic attempt at extortion.”
“He’s a failed associate — ex-associate — of Rocky’s, and he’s jealous,” Tacopina said of Ephron. “He was trying to get money from Rocky. He wanted Rocky to support him. He made it clear. There were repeated attempts where he tried to ask for money in lieu of not causing problems for Rocky. That’s what he said. We have all this memorialized in text messages and otherwise, so it’s an extortion.”
Ephron’s former civil lawyers Jamal Tooson and Brian Hurwitz previously told Rolling Stone that the “merits” of the case against Mayers were “thoroughly investigated by both law enforcement and the Los Angeles District Attorney prior to the decision to not only arrest Mayers but charge him.” Ephron’s new lawyer on the civil case is Camille Vasquez, the attorney who represented Johnny Depp in his defamation trial against ex-wife Amber Heard. Vasquez and Ephron filed a second civil complaint against Mayers in September, alleging he and Tacopina defamed Ephron with the extortion allegation.