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Swedish rapper guilty in killing

February 02, 2010|Harriet Ryan

A Los Angeles County jury convicted a Swedish hip-hop artist of second-degree murder Monday in a road rage killing whose suddenness and diverse cast earned comparison to the movie "Crash."

The panel in Superior Court rejected a claim by David Moses Jassy, a 35-year-old rapper and songwriter from Stockholm, that he had been acting in self-defense during a late-night confrontation with a pedestrian near the Sunset Strip.

He faces 15 years to life in prison when he is sentenced next month.

The eruption of violence between strangers in a Hollywood crosswalk in November 2008 horrified tourists and other onlookers and led a defense attorney to describe the death of John Osnes as a real-life example of the thesis of "Crash" -- "that random interactions of diverse people in a city as frenetic as Los Angeles can lead to disastrous consequences."

Osnes, 55, a jazz pianist known to friends as a stickler for the rights of pedestrians, was walking through the intersection of Selma Avenue and Schrader Boulevard on his way home from a neighborhood bar when an SUV driven by Jassy, en route from a dance club with his girlfriend, edged into the crosswalk.

Other motorists -- including Australian tourists, an off-duty Anaheim police officer and a mother picking her children up from a club -- told authorities that Osnes shouted and struck the vehicle's hood.

What happened next was the subject of the two-week trial before Judge Michael Johnson. Half a dozen witnesses testified that Jassy got out of the vehicle and attacked Osnes, punching him in the head, kicking him in the face and driving over his mortally wounded body.

Recalling the kick, which rendered Osnes immediately unconscious and caused lethal fractures to his skull, witness Rebecca Rinn said: "It was like a punter kicking a football."

Taking the stand in his own defense, Jassy insisted that Osnes threw the first punch. He said the older man, who had been drinking, seemed "crazy" and put him in fear for his life and the safety of his girlfriend and the SUV he was renting.

"I think both me and him share a responsibility for what happens," he said under cross-examination. But, he said, "it wasn't like I was driving around with a manual 'What if Someone Attacks Your Car Tonight.' "

The panel acquitted Jassy of first-degree murder, an assault charge that stemmed from his running over Osnes, and a vehicle code violation for leaving the scene of a fatal accident. Four jurors after the verdict said they had reasonable doubt as to whether Jassy intentionally hit Osnes.

Jassy testified that he rushed from the scene because he believed he was under attack from a bystander and was unaware that he had driven over Osnes' body as he fled.

"We couldn't come to that conclusion -- that he saw where the body was," said a juror who declined to give her name.

The jurors said that while Jassy's decision to get out of his car might have been reasonable, no one on the panel believed Osnes fought back and all saw the kick as crossing the line into murder.

"I think his intentions changed as the incident took place. . . . We believed the end result was more than what was necessary," said a juror who did not want to give his name.

In the trial's run-up, Jassy repeatedly tried to work out a deal to plead guilty to manslaughter. Prosecutors declined the offer.

"The attack in this case was brutal. It was unprovoked," said Deputy Dist. Atty. Sarika Kapoor. "I didn't think there were mitigating circumstances to reduce this to anything but murder."

Jassy's lawyer, Alec Rose, described his client as "a little shocked" by the verdict and said he was mulling an appeal. He also said Jassy "on every level wishes that he could change what happened that night."

"He's not the kind of guy who is only sorry he got arrested. . . . He has genuinely grieved for this man," Rose said. But Osnes' friend Ken Acosta said the defense's portrayal of Osnes as a belligerent and threatening man was inaccurate and a disservice to the victim.

"He was the gentlest man you'd ever want to meet," Acosta said.

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harriet.ryan@latimes.com

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