Crime

What to Know Ahead of Trial for Three Men Accused of Killing Rapper XXXTentacion

Three of the four men accused of killing South Florida rapper XXXTentacion during an attempted robbery in 2018 are set to stand trial in the coming days after a judge tossed out a motion to try the defendants separately.

Michael Boatwright, Dedrick Williams, and Trayvon Newsome are charged with first-degree murder and armed robbery with a firearm in the 2018 killing of Jahseh Onfroy — better known as XXXTentacion. The fourth suspect, Robert Allen, pleaded guilty in August to second-degree murder and armed robbery with a firearm and is expected to testify against his alleged cohorts.

On June 18, 2018, Onfroy and a friend were leaving the parking lot of Riva Motorsports in Deerfield Beach when a Dodge Journey SUV pulled in front of the rapper's BMW sports car. Prosecutors say Boatwright and Newsome emerged with handguns and attempted to rob Onfroy. Boatwright gunned the rapper down, and the duo grabbed a Louis Vuitton bag with $50,000 cash before getting back into the SUV and driving away, prosecutors claim.

Just before his death, the 20-year-old rap star from Plantation had secured a $10 million deal for a third studio album. Onfroy, known for his unique style of rap mixed with punk and rock, rapidly rose in the hip-hop scene via the music-streaming platform SoundCloud and wild free performances. His legacy was complicated by allegations of vicious domestic abuse against his girlfriend.

According to the arrest affidavit, detectives from the Broward Sheriff's Office linked the defendants to Onfroy's murder by reviewing the motorsports store's surveillance cameras, which caught the Dodge SUV in the parking lot two minutes after the rapper parked and entered the store. Investigators say two men from the SUV went into the store, one of whom walked past Onfroy to purchase a black neoprene mask. The pair returned to the Dodge SUV before they surrounded Onfroy outside the shop roughly 10 minutes later, police claim.

The detectives say two store employees recognized one of the suspects as a repeat customer though they did not remember his name. The employees were then shown a photo lineup in which they identified Williams as the man they had seen in the store on the day of the homicide. Williams' social media profiles led the investigators to Allen, who was identified as the other suspect inside the store.

GPS data from Williams' and Boatwright's cellphones placed the two men at the store around the time of Onfroy's murder, according to the affidavit. A search of a 1997 Cadillac belonging to Boatwright's grandmother, with whom he was living, revealed "two dark colored masks, one of which was consistent with the mask Williams purchased just before the homicide," along with .22 caliber ammunition from the same manufacturer as the casings found at the crime scene, the affidavit states.

Detectives say that Boatwright's fingerprints were also found on the exterior of the getaway vehicle.

Boatwright's attorney Joseph Kimok last month filed a motion for his client's case to be fielded separately in court, claiming Boatwright would "be unduly prejudiced by being tried in the same case with the codefendants."

"When there is substantial risk that the jury, despite instructions to the contrary, will look to incriminating extrajudicial statements of a codefendant in determining a defendant's guilt, admission of the codefendant's confession in a joint trial violates the defendant's right of cross-examination," the motion reads.

Judge Michael Usan struck down the motion on January 9, paving the way for jury selection to begin on January 18.

Kimok had filed an earlier motion to declare Boatwright incompetent to stand trial. However, after a court-ordered psychological evaluation, Usan ruled Boatwright was mentally fit to face the charges.

George Reres, attorney for Newsome, previously mounted an unsuccessful attempt to hold separate trials on the grounds that the evidence against his client differed "substantially from the evidence" against the others. To no avail, Reres cited the cellphone data placing Boatwright and Williams at the scene.

In an attempt to raise possibilities about other potential suspects, the defendants' attorneys argued in court last week that Canadian rapper Drake should be deposed over an alleged feud he had with Onfroy prior to his death. The judge rejected the request and moved the case toward trial.

Despite pleading guilty to lesser charges, Allen faces the possibility of a life sentence at his sentencing hearing on February 23.
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Naomi Feinstein is a fellow at Miami New Times. She spent the last year in New York City getting her master’s degree at the Columbia School of Journalism. She is also a proud alum of the University of Miami.
Contact: Naomi Feinstein

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