Jurors were handed the case Thursday in the trial of rapper Tory Lanez, who is charged with shooting and wounding fellow rapper Megan Thee Stallion after an argument in the Hollywood Hills.
Superior Court Judge David Herriford turned over the case involving the 30-year-old Lanez to the seven-woman, five-man panel after attorneys wrapped up their closing arguments.
Lanez — whose real name is Daystar Peterson — is charged with one count each of assault with a semiautomatic firearm, discharging a firearm with gross negligence and carrying a loaded, unregistered firearm in a vehicle, along with allegations that he personally used a firearm and inflicted great bodily injury on Megan Thee Stallion, whose real name is Megan Pete.
Deputy District Attorney Kathy Ta told jurors that Lanez shot Megan Thee Stallion early the morning of July 12, 2020, while defense attorney George Mgdesyan urged the downtown Los Angeles jury to acquit his client, telling jurors that investigators “jumped to conclusions” and “botched” their investigation into the shooting.
Lanez’s lawyer contended that Megan Thee Stallion’s former friend and personal assistant, Kelsey Harris, was “the one who shot her friend.” He contended that Megan Thee Stallion concocted a fake story about the shooting for publicity reasons, calling her “a liar” and saying it was a “better story” to say that Lanez shot her in the feet, rather than her former friend.
Mgdesyan told jurors that it was a “case about jealousy,” saying the two women had gotten into an argument after finding out that Lanez had slept with both of them and that a neighbor reported witnessing a fistfight between the women after the vehicle stopped on Nichols Canyon Road.
He questioned why Harris would have had gunshot residue on her, as a test determined that she did, if she wasn’t the person who fired the shots, and he said police failed to test her DNA to check if it could be found on the weapon.
In her rebuttal argument, the prosecutor told jurors it would have been easier for Megan Thee Stallion to accuse Harris of the shooting and that it has “cost her a lot” to accuse Lanez.
“The defendant had a bruised ego because Megan was more successful than him,” Ta said. “She’s just disrespecting his rapping … He had a massive ego and could not handle being disrespected … The defendant shot Megan.”
The prosecutor noted that Harris sent a text message within minutes of the shooting in which she wrote, “Help,” “Tory shot meg” and “911,” and that Lanez was “the only one apologizing” after the shooting.
Lanez declined Wednesday to testify in his own defense. The judge instructed jurors that Lanez has an “absolute constitutional right not to testify” and that they are not to consider that for “any reason at all.”
In a packed courtroom, Megan Thee Stallion testified that Lanez told her to “dance, bitch,” and shot her in the feet following a July 12, 2020, get-together at Kylie Jenner’s home. The entertainer said she had no doubt that Lanez fired the shots.
Megan Thee Stallion testified that Lanez offered her $1 million not to say anything and that he said he couldn’t go to jail because he was already on probation — the latter of which Mgdesyan told jurors was simply not the case.
She said she felt pain in both of her feet, but agreed to get back in the vehicle with Lanez and two other people, including Harris, after the shooting because she was wearing a thong bikini and felt like her manager would know what to do if she was able to get to him.
Megan Thee Stallion said the vehicle was stopped soon afterward by police, who ordered all of the occupants out, as her feet were still bleeding. She said she told police that she had stepped on glass when they began questioning her.
“At this time, we were at the height of police brutality with George Floyd,” she said, adding that she didn’t want to see anybody die and that it was “not really acceptable” in the Black community to cooperate with police.
Under cross-examination, the rapper said she initially had no intention of talking about what had happened and “didn’t want to be a snitch” but felt she had to “defend my name” when she saw that people were “making up things” and suggesting that she had never been shot at all.
Harris testified that she didn’t know who shot Megan Thee Stallion, didn’t want to be involved in the case and denied receiving any “hush money” from Lanez. In a recorded interview subsequently played in court, Harris can be heard telling prosecutors that she saw Lanez shooting at his fellow rapper, but said he “did not say anything.”
During cross-examination of Harris, the defense attorney asked if she was “aware that the defense theory was that you were the shooter.” Harris, who was granted use immunity to testify during the trial, has maintained that she “did not” shoot her former best friend, for whom she was working at the time as a personal assistant.
In a video posted on Instagram Live following the shooting, Megan Thee Stallion said, “Tory shot me. You shot me and you got your publicist and your people are lying … Stop lying.”
In an op-ed published in The New York Times, she wrote that she was “recently the victim of an act of violence by a man” and that she was initially silent about what had happened “out of fear for myself and my friends.”
“Even as a victim, I have been met with skepticism and judgment,” she wrote. “The way people have publicly questioned and debated whether I played a role in my own violent assault proves that my fears about discussing what happened were, unfortunately, warranted.”
The rapper gained fame in part through freestyling videos shared widely on Instagram. Her song “Savage” went viral on TikTok and topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart in May 2020, while her provocative collaboration with Cardi B on “WAP” garnered her more attention.
In a posting last year on Twitter, Lanez wrote, “I have all faith in God to show that … love to all my fans and people that have stayed true to me & know my heart … a charge is not a conviction.”