Opening statements are scheduled Monday in Los Angeles in the criminal trial of rapper Daystar “Tory Lanez” Peterson, who is accused of shooting rapper Megan “Thee Stallion” Pete.
Lanez was arrested during a traffic stop on July 12, 2020, after reports of of gunfire drew police to the Hollywood Hills area about 4:30 a.m.
Megan was taken to a hospital for what police described at the time as “a foot injury.” She and Lanez were in a car with her now ex-friend Kelsey Harris, leaving a party at Kylie Jenner‘s home, when Megan fled the vehicle and Lanez allegedly fired a gun at her, striking both feet.
Lanez’s lead lawyer, George Mgdesyan, declined to detail his case to Law&Crime but said, “I can tell you this: My client is not the shooter.” He said Lanez has spent “a long time waiting for his side of the story to be said.”
“Obviously, our goal is to tell the jury the truth of what happened at Kylie’s house,” Mgdesyan said. “Because what happened in the altercation is a continuation of what happened at Kylie’s.”
Prosecutors appear to be ready to challenge any assertion from Mgdesyan that the other person in the car with Lanez and Megan, Kelsey Harris, fired the shots, telling Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge David Herriford they plan to show jurors a comment Lanez made on Instagram responding to a fan who accused Harris of shooting Megan. Harris is described in various media reports as Megan’s now-former friend from her hometown of Houston, Texas, and Megan has accused her of wrongly defending Lanez.
Now 30, Lanez initially faced a firearm possession charge after his arrest in July 2020, but the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office later announced charges of assault with semiautomatic firearm – personal use of a firearm – and intentional discharge of a firearm. Prosecutors last week added a third charge of negligent discharge of a firearm, which is essentially an alternative to assault if jurors not convict on that count because assault requires intent while the new charge does not.
Lanez faces a maximum sentence of 22 years and eight months if convicted of the most serious charges. He is a Canadian citizen, so he also could be deported from the United States.
A DA’s Office press release in October 2020 said Lanez “and the 24-year-old victim got into an argument while riding in an SUV in the Hollywood Hills.”
“The victim exited the vehicle and Peterson [Lanez] is accused of shooting several times at her feet and wounding her,” prosecutors said.
The victim is widely known to be Megan, now 27 and a three-time Grammy winner. The case has received broad attention, with NPR saying it has led to “two years of back-and-forth and division in the hip-hop world. Drake and 21 Savage‘s new album Her Loss is believed to include a reference to it, with Drake rapping on “Circo Loco,” “This bitch lie ’bout getting shots, but she still a stallion.”
Megan is represented by Alex Spiro, a prominent trial lawyer with Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, LLP in New York who also has represented Elon Musk. Spiro criticized Drake’s lyric in a statement released to various media outlets.
“Despite the irrefutable evidence that Megan was a victim of gun violence, the ignorant continue to support her attacker,” Spiro said.
Spiro said in another statement in April, “The self-serving noise in this case will not change the facts or prevent this case from proceeding.”
Megan also appeared to respond to Drake on Twitter, writing, “Since when tf is it cool to joke abt women getting shot ! … Ready to boycott bout shoes and clothes but dog pile on a black woman when she say one of y’all homeboys abused her.”
Stop using my shooting for clout bitch ass Niggas! Since when tf is it cool to joke abt women getting shot ! You niggas especially RAP NIGGAS ARE LAME! Ready to boycott bout shoes and clothes but dog pile on a black woman when she say one of y’all homeboys abused her
— TINA SNOW (@theestallion) November 4, 2022
Megan discussed the shooting in a televised interview in April, telling CBS News’ Gayle King she initially told police she’d stepped on glass amid surging adrenaline and because of a deep fear of police, particularly in the months following the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
“I was like, ‘Oh, my God. We all about to die’…The police are definitely very much, ‘Shoot first, ask questions after,'” Megan said.
She said Lanez had apologized and said, “Please don’t tell nobody. I’ll give ya’ll a million dollars if y’all don’t say nothing.”
“I didn’t want them to kill any of us, or shoot any of us, so I just said, ‘I stepped on glass,'” Megan said. “I was just trying to protect all of us, because I didn’t want them to kill…Like, even though this person just did, just did this to me, my first reaction still was to try to save us.”
Video of the police response, obtained by TMZ, shows Megan in a swimsuit, limping with her hands up.
Megan told King she continued telling police she’d only stepped on glass as they interviewed her at the hospital, until a doctor told her she had bullets fragments in both feet. Lanez has said the two had a sexual relationship and Megan is lying about what happened, but she denied that to King. Lanez has also said he was sleeping with Harris, implying that competition between the women led to the shooting.
Good D*ick had me fucking 2 best friends …. and I got caught 🤷🏾♂️ … that’s what I apologized 4 . … it’s sick how u Spun it tho …
— Tory Lanez (@torylanez) February 23, 2022
Megan is expected to take the stand on Tuesday. Mgdesyan said he plans to question her about statements about the shooting that he said are inconsistent, and he said he’ll call several of his own witnesses. He said he does not yet know if Jenner will be among them.
“I have to speak to her lawyer. Both Kylie and the other witness that everybody’s interested in, I have to make sure by speaking to their lawyer,” Mgdesyan said. The other witness appears to be Corey Gamble, fiancé of Kris Jenner, who is Kylie Jenner’s mother.
Mgdesyan said he understands why “nobody wants to be a part of this.”
“You’ve two celebrities on both sides, and nobody wants to testify on one side and make enemies in Rock Nation,” he said. “I get it. But we’ve got to do what we’ve got to do…because the way it’s being portrayed in not truly what happened.”
He does not know if Lanez will testify but said, “If I was a betting man, I’d say he’s probably going to.”
“He wants to give his side of what happened, but we want to see how trial’s going, obviously, before we make that decision,” Mgdesyan said.
Mgdesyan and his associate attorney, Sarkis Manukya, selected a jury last week with Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorneys Alexander Bott and Kathy Ta. Lanez attended court each day with two security guards, with his father joining him on Dec. 6. His courthouse presence has drew a few fans, with a court officer asking one of his guards to go out into the hallway because people were trying to photograph Lanez in violation of Los Angeles County Superior Court’s prohibition on photography in the courthouse
Lanez is not currently in jail. He was released on bond the day of his arrest, then handcuffed in court in April after a judge ruled he violated a protective order by mentioning Megan on social media. He again left jail on bond but was ordered into home confinement and electronic monitoring on Oct. 26 for allegedly violating his release conditions by assaulting singer August Alsina in Chicago. Judge Herriford recently lifted the confinement to allow him to prepare for trial.
Ta and Bott had opposed Lanez’s house arrest being rescinded for trial, with Ta telling Herriford on Dec. 5 they’re concerned about the safety of witnesses and the general public. Ta also said Lanez has threatened and tried to bribe a witness, as Lanez shook his head in disagreement. Mgdesyan said the allegation isn’t true, pointing to a claim that Lanez’s attempted bribe related to him being on probation, which he in fact is not.
Herriford went against prosecutors and lifted Lanez’s home confinement, saying “I’m doing this mainly for the trial preparation aspect.”
Four alternate jurors were empaneled on Dec. 8, along with the 12 regular jurors. One of the alternates is a lawyer who has worked both as a prosecutors and as a criminal defense attorney.
Among those excused from the jury pool were a woman who said, “I already know who he is. I’m gonna say he’s innocent.” Another man was a defendant in a concurrent criminal trial, and another was a nurse who said he can’t miss work and had his hand bandaged after a patient bit him the night before.
Prosecutors also announced last week that a key witness, Los Angeles police Detective Ryan Stonger, had been “relieved of duty” and they didn’t intend to call him at trial. Mgdesyan told reporters after court he believes Stonger was fired amid allegations of domestic violence.
“Obviously, the district attorney’s office refused to prosecute him, however, my understanding is the LAPD fired him,” Mgdesyan said. Mgdesyan told Judge Herriford that Stogner is one, if not the most important witness for the defense.”
“This is a detective who I will argue has botched the investigation… He only chose to do certain things that were incriminating to my client,” Stogner said.
Herriford said Stogner “has to be available if the defense wants to call him.”
“We’ll have to cross that bridge when we get to it,” the judge said on Dec. 7.
Law&Crime has a designated seat in Judge Herriford’s courtroom for the trial. For live updates from the courthouse, follow reporter Meghann M. Cuniff on Twitter.
(Images: Lanez screenshot via Breakfast Club Power 105.1 FM; Thee Stallion screenshot via CBS News)
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