Defense attorneys representing three men accused of murdering XXXTentacion have suggested that Canadian rapper Drake might be linked to the 2018 killing, on the opening day of the trial.
XXXTentacion, whose real name is Jahseh Onfroy, was shot and killed on June 18, 2018, aged 20, after he was ambushed during an apparent robbery as he was leaving a motorsports store in Deerfield.
Michael Boatwright, 28, is accused of being the shooter, while his friend, Trayon Newsome, 24, is accused of being the other gunman. Dedrick Williams, 26, is accused of being the driver. They could all receive life sentences if convicted of first-degree murder.
A fourth man who prosecutors say was in the SUV, 26-year-old Robert Allen, pleaded guilty last year to second-degree murder and is set to testify against his former friends at the trial at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
The New York Post reports the defendants’ defense team have argued investigators did not investigate XXXTentacion’s feud with Drake, which boiled over when the Sad! hitmaker wrote on social media in March 2018: ‘If anyone tries to kill me, it was @champagnepapi. I’m snitching right now’
He would later retract that statement and claim his account had been hacked.
Another rapper had also made threats against XXXTentacion.
Defense attorneys said that with the rapper’s slaying coming just four months after the slaying of 17 people at nearby Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, the Broward Sheriff’s Office was under extreme political pressure to solve the case quickly.
‘For Broward County, for everyone involved, this was a nightmare’ said Mauricio Padilla, Williams’ attorney.
That’s why they wanted no part with investigating a celebrity, he said.
Prosecutors say there is no evidence linking Drake to the shooting, and Williams is clearly seen in the store’s surveillance video, recognizable through his distinctive facial tattoos. He was also identified by one of the clerks. Padilla conceded Williams was present in the store but didn’t say how he would explain that.
Prosecutor Pascale Achille told jurors that Boatwright, Newsome, Williams, and Allen, set out that day to commit armed robberies. Allen and Williams went inside the motorcycle shop to buy masks, she said.
There, they happened upon XXXTentacion, who, according to witness Leonard Kerr, had the $50,000 he had just gotten from the bank hanging out of his bag.
The pair recognized him, and the group seized upon the opportunity, deciding to rob him as he left, Achille said. Boatwright shot him several times ‘without any provocation,’ she said.
To varying degrees, the defendants are linked to the shooting by surveillance video and cellphone locations, and all are implicated through Allen’s expected testimony, Achille said. Then there are the social media photos of some of the men flashing the money posted that night, she said.
‘They go on social media and start bragging that they have this influx of cash,’ Achille said. ‘They flash it like it’s Christmas Day.’
Joseph Kimok, Boatwright’s attorney, also pointed the finger at a third man as the possible shooter – a friend Williams was seen talking to inside the motorcycle store just before the shooting who has the same build as his client.
He alluded that the friend could have gotten into the SUV Williams was driving outside the view of surveillance cameras. He said the evidence will show that Boatwright was asleep at the home he shared with his grandmother at the time of the shooting.
‘At no point (in the surveillance videos) will you see Mr. Boatwright, because he wasn�t there,’ Kimok said.
Yes, a cellphone linked to him was near the store – but that was a community phone used by several men, he said. And yes, he ‘very stupidly posed’ with money that night – but that money was Allen’s, not Boatwright’s, Kimok said.
Newsome’s attorney also denied that his client was present.
XXXTentacion was pronounced dead at a local hospital after he was left with multiple gunshot wounds from the shooting.