The singer and rapper Tory Lanez has been found guilty of assaulting the rapper Megan Thee Stallion. The Canadian artist was convicted on all charges in a Los Angeles courtroom on Dec 24.
The charges stem from a dispute that took place on July 12, 2020, after the rappers left a pool party at Kylie Jenner’s house in Los Angeles. Lanez, real name Daystar Peterson, stood trial for three felony charges; assault with a semi-automatic firearm, possession of a concealed, unregistered firearm, negligent discharge of a firearm. Peterson, 30, was accused of assaulting Megan Thee Stallion, real name Megan Pete, by shooting her in both feet after an argument in a vehicle leaving the party spilled out onto the street around 4 a.m.
A jury of seven women and five men deliberated for two days in Los Angeles Superior Court after hearing arguments from both the prosecution and the defense in a high profile trial that stretched on for the past two weeks, coming right up against the Christmas holiday weekend.
During the last two weeks of witness and expert statements, the jury and members of the public observed emotional testimony from the victim herself, unexpected twists in testimony and varied interpretations of the hard evidence in the case.
Megan Pete was one of the first names called for the prosecution, and she gave her account of the assault, pointing to Peterson in court as the shooter. The Houston rapper also described how the assault and these proceedings have impacted her career and life the last two and a half years. Pete talked about being repeatedly doubted and ostracized by some in the “big, boys’ club” of the music industry, and being ridiculed, slut-shamed and threatened online.
“I can’t hold conversations with people for a long time. I don’t feel like I want to be on this earth. I wish he would have just shot and killed me, if I knew I would have to go through this torture,” Pete, 27, told members of the jury through tears.
After Pete’s statements, the prosecution’s key witness, Kelsey Harris, recanted her statement, delivering a blow to their case. Harris, the former best friend and assistant of Pete, was in the vehicle with the two rappers that night. Harris’ testimony was highly anticipated as potential corroboration for Pete’s account of the night, which pegged Peterson as the shooter. Harris’ testimony was also expected to lay the grounds for the defense to explore the theory that she, not Peterson, was the shooter in this incident.
But when Harris took the stand on Dec. 14, she requested to exercise her 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination. The prosecution offered Harris use immunity — meaning information directly or indirectly derived from the testimony or other information can’t be used against the witness in any criminal case — but even with the offer, she still hesitated to answer many questions, at times not even admitting that she knew Pete had been shot. Despite confirming that Pete rested her leg on Harris as they fled from police and later photographed in jail with Pete’s blood on her, Harris repeatedly said, “Her team told me she stepped on glass” and that she “wasn’t aware she was bleeding.”
Harris and Pete have not spoken in the almost three years, from the incident to this trial.
In his cross examination of Harris, Peterson’s defense attorney, George Mgdsesyan, first asked if she had been bribed by his client, based on her extreme hesitancy on the stand, something she denied. Mgdsesyan then insinuated that Harris was being coerced by the District Attorney’s Office. In response, DDA Kathy Ta and Alexander Bott moved to have Kelsey’s September 2022 interview with them be entered into evidence so that the jury could hear her full recount of that night and prove there was no coercion.
Playback of Harris’s recorded testimony shifted suspicion of coercion back to the defendant, as Harris told prosecutors Peterson offered both women $1 million each to keep quiet about the incident. (When asked by defense attorney Mgdesyan in open court about accepting any bribe from Peterson, Harris replied, “No, and I would actually like to make that very clear.”)
While the mysterious factors causing large discrepancies between Harris’ recorded interview and live testimony went unanswered, Harris in both instances appeared emotionally distraught when talking about the dissolution of her friendship with Pete in the aftermath of the shooting.
As the prosecution called DNA and gunshot residue (GSR) experts, much of the direct evidence of the case didn’t help prove what happened that night: Both Kelsey Harris and Tory Lanez had GSR on their hands. Tory’s DNA was not found on the magazine of the firearm, but when it came to the firearm itself, the defendant’s DNA results
One fact that was unequivocal, though; Megan Pete was shot. The attending Cedar Sinai Hospital orthopedic surgeon who assisted in removing bullet fragments out of Megan’s feet testified to performing the surgery and confirmed that there were fragments too microscopic to remove and that they are still in the heels of the rapper’s feet today.
In another testimonial twist, when it was the defense’s turn to prove their theory that Kelsey Harris was the real assailant, their key witness also partially reneged on a previous statement. 911 caller Sean Kelly, who claimed to see the fight from his bedroom window, testified that he did see “two girls fighting” at first and that a “muzzle flash” went off closer to a woman, but said he also saw Peterson with his arms outstretched and firing wildly and violently, assaulting both women. “They were all fighting … they all struggled continuously,” Kelly told the court.
With such high profile parties and the bizarre circumstances of the event, this trial has been at the center of a polarizing debate marred by the continuous spread of misinformation online. Misinterpreted evidence by independent blogs and unsubstantiated claims of a verdict being rendered early have sidelined the facts of the case in favor of salacious hot takes. In the two years it took for this trial to happen, there’s been disagreement in the hip-hop world about Pete’s believability as a victim, normalized mistreatment of Black women and false accusations made against Black men. The case of People v. Daystar Peterson has become a magnifying glass for the inherent misogynoir that courses through society.
Peterson is facing up to 22 years in prison for the felony charges. His legal team will have a chance to appeal the decision.