A Los Angeles jury on Friday found rapper Tory Lanez guilty of shooting Megan Thee Stallion in a July 2020 altercation in the Hollywood Hills, deliberating for about seven hours over two days before convicting him of three felonies.
The 30-year-old Canadian-born man was taken into custody after the verdict was announced about 3:15 p.m. in Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge David Herriford‘s courtroom.
He faces up to 22 years and eight months in prison at sentencing. He also could be deported.
Chaos erupted in the courtroom after the verdict was read, with Lanez’s father standing and screaming about “wicked injustice” and a rigged system, then pointing at prosecutors while calling them evil and saying they know what they’ve done. He screamed about “Roc Nation,” Megan’s management company that was founded by Jay-Z, and Lanez’s stepmother sobbed as she hugged two crying children, then rose and screamed in the courtroom, too. Sheriff’s deputies struggled to contain Lanez’s father and force him and Lanez’s other supporters from the courtroom. A woman seated in the gallery raised an arm and repeated “In the name of Jesus!” amid the screams. Another woman turned to reporters seated behind her and said, “Jay-Z is a bitch. Report that: Jay-Z is a bitch.”
Los Angeles County’s jail roster listed Lanez as an inmate Friday evening. He was convicted of assault with a firearm, possession of an unregistered firearm in a vehicle and negligent discharge of a firearm. Jurors also agreed he caused great bodily injury.
Megan’s lawyer Alex Spiro issued a statement: “The jury got it right. I am thankful there is justice for Meg.”
Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón said in a press release that Megan, whose legal name is Megan Pete, “showed incredible courage and vulnerability with your testimony despite repeated and grotesque attacks that you did not deserve.”
“You faced unjust and despicable scrutiny that no woman should ever face and you have been an inspiration to others across LA County and the nation,” Gascón said. “Women, especially Black women, are afraid to report crimes like assault and sexual violence because they are too often not believed. This trial, for the second time this month, highlighted the numerous ways that our society must do better for women.”
The 12 deliberating jurors were seven women and five men. The foreman was a white man who appeared to be in his early 30s. Four jurors were Black, including a woman who appeared to be in her 60s and a man who appeared to be in his early 30s, and a woman who appeared to be in her 20s said during jury selection that she is a women’s clothing “seamstress.” A Black man who appeared to be in his 50s or 60s answered the loudest when the jurors were asked individually if the guilty verdicts were theirs, shouting “YES!”
Lanez was first arrested on a gun charge on July 12, 2020, after Los Angeles police pulled over the Escalade he was in on Hollywood Boulevard after a report of gunfire. Megan, bleeding from her feet, was taken to a hospital by ambulance, while her best friend and assistant at the time, Kelsey Nicole Harris, was taken to a police station with Lanez and his driver, Jaquan Smith. Megan had bullet fragments in her feet, according to testimony and medical records, some of which was removed by surgeons and some that still remains.
Megan didn’t tell police she’d been shot until four days later, first insisting she’d merely stepped on glass before telling police Lanez fired rounds at her after yelling, “Dance, bitch!” The shifting statements caused an uproar in the hip-hop industry, with Drake rapping in Circo Loco, a song released last month with 21 Savage, “This bitch lie ’bout gettin shots but she still a stallion.”
Megan testified last week about the sexual shaming she’s endured and the suicidal thoughts she said she’s had because of constant rumor-mongering and harassment.
Jurors hear quotes from her testimony in prosecutors’ closing argument and rebuttal as an overhead slideshow displayed them with her photo. One said, “This whole story has not been about the shooting. It’s only been about who is Tory having sex with.”
Lanez’s lawyer George Mgdesyan admitted in his opening statement that Megan had been shot, and he emphasized in his closing argument that her being shot is unfortunate.
But Mgdesyan said Lanez is wrongly accused when he actually tried to take the gun away from an enraged Harris after she fired five rounds at her best friend in a jealous fit over the women’s duel romantic interest in Lanez and other men. He drew attention to a gathering the three attended at reality star Kylie Jenner‘s home before the shooting that he said contributed to the women’s jealousy because Lanez was focused on Jenner. He also tried to salvage the testimony of defense witness Sean Kelly by focusing on Kelly’s testimony that the muzzle flashes he saw before he said Lanez started “firing everywhere” originated with a woman.
But Deputy District Attorney Alexander Bott argued Kelly’s testimony clearly incriminates Lanez, including the man’s emphatic descriptions of Lanez “going crazy” and hurling “a torrent of abuse” at a woman who’d fallen to the ground after the muzzle flashes. The prosecutor used Megan’s testimony to frame his argument that Harris had been “compromised” sometime between her September interview with prosecutors and her witness stand appearance last week, highlighting Megan’s own anxiety about testifying in front of Lanez and his supporters.
Key evidence for prosecutors included a recorded, apologetic phone call Lanez made from jail to Harris hours after the shooting as she waited for Megan at the hospital, text messages Harris sent Megan’s bodyguard after the shooting that implicated Lanez and apologetic texts he sent Megan after the shooting.
A recording of Harris’ entire September interview with prosecutors also was entered as evidence and played for jurors in its entirety after Lanez’s lawyer repeatedly implied in his questioning of Harris that prosecutors had wrongly pressured her to incriminate Lanez and save herself.
Judge Herriford allowed Harris to invoke her 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination before she took the stand on Dec. 13.
Prosecutors granted Harris use immunity for her testimony instead of transactional immunity, meaning they can’t use her testimony to prosecute her, but they can still prosecute her based on other information. She also can be prosecuted for perjury based on her testimony, which Deputy District Attorney Kathy Ta reminded her of last week as she repeatedly said she didn’t see Lanez with a gun the night Megan was shot.
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