FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – The murder trial of three men accused of killing South Florida rapper XXXTentacion continued at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale on Wednesday, with defense attorneys continuing to give their closing arguments in the case.
Detectives arrested Trayvon Newsome, 24, Dedrick Williams, 26, Robert Allen, 26, and Michael Boatwright, 28, for the murder, but only Allen pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and is a witness in the case. The others are going to trial.
Detectives say the group ambushed and robbed the rapper, whose real name is Jahseh Onfroy, shortly before 4 p.m., on June 18, 2018, outside of RIVA Motorsports in Deerfield Beach.
All sides rested their cases Friday. Closing arguments began Tuesday morning.
Attorney Joseph Kimok gave the final defense closing argument in the trial of three men accused of first-degree murder, saying that while the artist struggled with his killers before being shot and DNA was found on the body and on a stolen necklace, it wasn’t from his client, 28-year-old Michael Boatwright. Nor was it from accused second gunman Trayvon Newsome, 24, or accused getaway driver and ringleader Dedrick Williams, 26.
“Whoever (XXXTentacion) struggled with is not in this courtroom,” Kimok told jurors as the four-week trial neared its conclusion. “The DNA proves that someone not named Michael Boatwright or Trayvon Newsome participated in this murder.”
A fourth man, Robert Allen, pleaded guilty last year to second-degree murder and testified against his former friends. Attorneys for all three men say he is lying about their clients’ involvement in the slaying and robbery, which netted $50,000. They also say Broward County sheriff’s detectives botched the investigation, failing to consider other possible suspects including Canadian rap star Drake, with whom XXXTentacion had an online feud.
Lead prosecutor Pascale Achille in her rebuttal argument Wednesday admitted that Allen is not a perfect witness, that he has previous felony convictions, but co-conspirators in murders rarely are.
“Plans hatched in hell do not have angels for witnesses,” she said.
Achille said that while detectives never found the guns, masks and money, only Williams was arrested within days of the shooting, giving the others time to hide any evidence. She said the lack of DNA evidence linking the defendants to the killing is irrelevant — that fact does not exclude them. She said much more importantly, cellphone data shows the defendants were together near the motorcycle shop at the time of the slaying and that Bluetooth data puts them in the SUV used by the shooters at that same time.
Jury deliberations began later Wednesday after Circuit Judge Michael Usan instructed the jury on the law. Boatwright, Williams and Newsome all face mandatory life sentences if convicted. Prosecutors did not seek the death penalty. While the three are being tried together, the jury has to decide separately on each and could convict just one or two.
Prosecutor Pascale Achille played cellphone videos the defendants allegedly took hours after the killing that showed them smiling and dancing as they flashed handfuls of $100 bills. Michael Boatwright, Dedrick Williams and Trayvon Newsome are all charged with first-degree murder and face mandatory life sentences if convicted.
“This is who they are. This is their real character. Killers that within 24 hours after shooting the victim dead and stealing $50,000 from him, this is what they do,” Achille told the jury as she played the video. “Look at how happy they look. Look at how excited they look.”
She also played surveillance video from the motorcycle shop and from where two of them allegedly stashed an SUV that she says link the men to the killing. And she recounted statements from a fourth man, Robert Allen, who pleaded guilty to second-degree murder last year and testified against his former friends.
George Reres, Newsome’s attorney, implored the jury not to convict his client based on Allen’s testimony or evidence implicating the other two defendants, saying, “He was not there.” He said Allen, a 12-time convicted felon, should not be believed and Newsome’s DNA was not found on any evidence.
He told jurors they should not believe Newsome is guilty simply because of the video showing him flashing money with the others, arguing he may not have even known where they got it.
“He did some stupid things — he posed with some money,” Reres said. “Guilt by association is not something the law permits.”
Mauricio Padilla, Williams’ attorney, called Allen a “liar.” He said the prosecution’s witnesses contradicted each other and Broward County sheriff’s detectives didn’t look at other possible suspects, including the Canadian star rapper Drake — he and XXXTentacion had an online feud. He said his client did tattooing and other work that paid him in cash, so the video of him flashing money means nothing.
Padilla also sought to cast doubt on the evidentiary value of the surveillance video, saying that while it may show his client in the store and walking back to the SUV, there are moments where the vehicle is blocked and Williams could have gotten out and left.
Boatwright’s attorney was expected to give his closing argument Wednesday, followed by Achille’s rebuttal and then jury deliberations. The trial began a month ago.