Trial for suspects in killing of rapper XXXTentacion begins with opening arguments, testimony
MIAMI - Nearly five years after local rap star XXXTentacion was gunned down outside a Broward County motorsports dealership while carrying $50,000, opening arguments and testimony began Tuesday in the long awaited trial for the three suspects charged with his murder.
Michael Boatwright, 27, Dedrick Williams, 26, and Trayvon Newsome, 24, are each facing first-degree murder and robbery with a firearm charges in connection with the death of the 20-year-old hip hop star, who real name was Jasay Onfroy.
All three men could face life in prison if convicted.
A fourth man, identified as Robert Allen, 26, pleaded guilty in August 2022 to second-degree murder and is expected to testify during the trial.
Lawyers for the three defendants had previously asked Judge Michael Usan to conduct a separate trial but he rejected that request. Each defendant has their own attorney and each lawyer presented opening arguments for their client during Tuesday's proceeding.
Prosecutors contend that Boatwright was the triggerman who opened fire while Newsome pointed his own weapon at the rapper.
But attorney Joseph Kimok said he planned to show that his client, Boatwright, was not present during the slaying. The pair who robbed Onfroy were each wearing face masks, according to the defense.
"At no time will you see Mr. Boawright," Kimok said of surveillance video that will be presented during the trial. "He wasn't there."
George Reres, the attorney for Newsome, said he also planned to show that his client was not present for the murder.
Police have said Onfroy was killed on June 18, 2018 after he had left RIVA Motorsports dealership in Deerfield Beach.
The thieves got away with $50,000 in cash that was contained in a Louis Vuitton satchel that Onfroy had on him while he was contemplating buying a motorbike from the dealership, according to the prosecution. Onfroy had originally sought to withdraw $250,000 from a Coconut Creek Bank of America but the branch didn't have that much cash on hand, the teller who gave the rapper money testified Tuesday.
State attorney Pascale Achille told the jury that the four men had plotted to identify and target victims in South Florida and only by happenstance ran into Onfroy, a local celebrity with dyed dreadlocs and facial tattoos.
The men had to rent a vehicle in order to conduct their crime spree, and they found a Dodge Journey SUV being rented by the owner using a mobile app to find renters, Achile said.
As Onfroy was leaving the dealership, his BMW i8 was blocked in the one-way driveway by the Dodge SUV occupied by the four suspects, the prosecution said.
Two of the robbers exited the SUV and went to the rapper's car and began physically trying to take his designer bag with the stash of cash inside. At some point, one of the assailants stood outside the driver's side of the vehicle with its door open and fired several times inside, striking Onfroy.
Leonard Kerr, a family relative, had accompanied Onfroy to the dealership and was in the passenger side of the vehicle but he ran from the scene after one of the robbers pointed a gun at him from outside the car, prosecutors said.
Achille told the jurors that the four suspects had hatched a plan to rent a car the day before Onfroy was killed just to drive around South Florida and rob people.
"Their plan was to rob someone that day," she told the jury. "They had firearms and masks and the capability to do it."
It was almost a matter of chance that two of the men encountered Onfroy inside the dealership.
"Trayvon Newsome and Michael Boatwright began communicating" with the two others outside in the SUV," Achile said. "They see he's a celebrity."
The prosecution said after the rapper had been killed and his money taken, police were able to identify the four suspects because of social media posts they made boasting about suddenly have a lot of cash.
The rapper first rose to prominence with the release in 2017 of a song "Look At Me!"
He later alleged that hip hop superstar Drake had copied portions of the song, which became a social media dispute.
"He was wealthy as a result of his celebrity," Achille said. "He was a young celebrity rapper who gained fame through social media exposure and was a self-made artist."
She said at the time he was killed, Onfroy's girlfriend was pregnant with his first child.
The first day of testimony ended with eyewitness testimony from Kerr who was in the car when they were approached by the robbers.
"His mom asked me to accompany him," Kerr testified when asked why he was with Onfroy that day.
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