Arts

Tory Lanez Found Guilty of Shooting Megan Thee Stallion

LOS ANGELES — A Los Angeles jury on Friday found Daystar Peterson, the Canadian rapper better known as Tory Lanez, guilty of shooting a fellow artist, Megan Thee Stallion, in both of her feet following an argument about their romantic entanglements and respective careers in the summer of 2020.

Mr. Lanez, 30, was convicted of three felony counts: assault with a semiautomatic handgun, carrying a loaded, unregistered firearm in a vehicle and discharging a firearm with gross negligence. He faces more than 20 years in prison and could be deported.

Jurors reached a verdict after about seven hours of deliberation across two days, following a trial that lasted nearly two weeks. Mr. Lanez, who had been free on bail during the trial following a period of house arrest, was immediately taken into custody. Sentencing was scheduled for Jan. 27.

Megan Thee Stallion was not present in court. As the verdict was read, Mr. Lanez appeared motionless and stared straight ahead until his father stood up and began shouting at the judge and prosecutors. “God will judge you,” he said, as bailiffs moved to block his path.

Alex Spiro, a lawyer for Megan Thee Stallion, said in a statement: “The jury got it right. I am thankful there is justice for Meg.”

The case, which played out as both a tawdry tabloid narrative and a weighty referendum on the treatment of Black women in hip-hop and beyond, was closely watched for both its famous characters and what it said about the recent adjudication of alleged abuse by notable men, such as Johnny Depp and Harvey Weinstein, in court and in public.

Mr. Lanez, though not a household name before the case, has seen his celebrity profile rise since the shooting, earning explicit and implied support from various corners of the hip-hop universe, including influential blogs, social media accounts and the rappers-turned-talking heads 50 Cent and Joe Budden.

In court, Mr. Lanez’s defense had raised the possibility of another shooter, a friend of Megan Thee Stallion’s who was also involved in the argument, which occurred on the way home from a gathering at the home of the reality star and beauty mogul Kylie Jenner.

But Megan Thee Stallion, who testified in the case, identified Mr. Lanez as her assailant, tearfully recounting how he had shouted “dance” and a sexist slur at her before firing several times from the passenger seat of a sport utility vehicle.

She said Mr. Lanez then apologized and offered her and the friend, Kelsey Harris, a million dollars each to keep quiet about what had occurred.

In his closing argument, Alexander Bott, a deputy district attorney, said that Mr. Lanez had been pushed to a breaking point when Megan Thee Stallion demeaned his artistic stature, noting that she had been reluctant to come forward after the traumatic event.

“Megan did find the courage to come and tell you what the defendant did to her,” Mr. Bott told jurors. “Was Megan telling the truth? I think everyone in the courtroom knows the answer to that question.”

The lawyer added, of Mr. Lanez, “Hold him accountable for shooting the victim for nothing more than a bruised ego.”

Mr. Lanez’s defense team argued that the two women were fighting that night over the male rapper, implying that Ms. Harris might have been motivated to shoot her friend out of jealousy when she learned that Mr. Lanez and Megan Thee Stallion had been intimate behind her back.

George Mgdesyan, a lawyer for Mr. Lanez, said that the case “was about jealousy and a sexual relationship,” calling the prosecution’s case “full of holes and speculation.” Megan Thee Stallion “lied about everything in this case,” he told jurors.

Some eyewitnesses provided muddled accounts of the shooting at trial, though most testified to seeing Mr. Lanez with a gun. Ms. Harris, who was offered immunity in exchange for her testimony, denied pulling the trigger or receiving hush money from Mr. Lanez, The Los Angeles Times reported. But on the stand, she also backtracked on her previous statements to the police that identified Mr. Lanez as the shooter, testifying that amid the drunken scuffle, she did not see who shot Megan Thee Stallion.

Megan Thee Stallion, who testified in the case, identified Mr. Lanez as her assailant.Credit…Jason Armond/Los Angeles Times, via Getty Images

Prosecutors then received the judge’s permission to play Ms. Harris’s entire 80-minute interview with detectives from September, in which she implicated Mr. Lanez. They also presented a text message Ms. Harris sent to Megan Thee Stallion’s bodyguard the night of the shooting, writing, “Help” and “Tory shot Meg.” (In response to her conflicting accounts, Ms. Harris said she could not remember what she had said previously and had not been entirely truthful with prosecutors in the past.)

Another eyewitness, who saw the encounter from the window of a nearby home, said that he observed a violent, chaotic fight and that the first “flashes” — which he initially believed were fireworks, noting that he never saw a gun — came from a woman. But the witness added that he then saw a short man, believed to be Mr. Lanez, “firing everywhere” four or five times, Rolling Stone reported.

Experts testified that gunshot residue was found on both Mr. Lanez and Ms. Harris, who were in close proximity, though DNA evidence tying Mr. Lanez to the weapon was inconclusive. (The police did not collect a DNA sample from Ms. Harris.)

Ahead of the trial, the case had played out on social media, gossip sites and in music released by both rappers.

Megan Thee Stallion, who had collaborated with Beyoncé shortly before the shooting and went on to win three Grammy Awards, including best new artist, in 2021, was initially circumspect about what had occurred.

“Look what coming forward has done to her life, her reputation and her career,” Mr. Bott, the deputy district attorney, said in his closing remarks, raising his voice at times for emphasis. “Do you think she wants to be here?”

In her testimony, the rapper said she did not tell police officers that she had been shot that night in July — claiming instead that she had stepped on glass — because tensions between Black people and law enforcement were high after the murder of George Floyd. “I didn’t want to see anybody die,” she said. “I didn’t want to die.”

She was also worried about her career. “I didn’t want to talk to the officers because I didn’t want to be a snitch,” the rapper added. “Snitching is frowned upon in the hip-hop community,” which she identified as a boys’ club.

At first, Mr. Lanez was arrested and charged only with concealing a firearm in the vehicle. But in the days and weeks that followed, Megan Thee Stallion revealed online and in an interview with a detective that she had been shot, eventually naming Mr. Lanez as her assailant. That October, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office charged Mr. Lanez with assault.

Still, for years since, some skeptics and conspiracy theorists have questioned whether Megan Thee Stallion was shot at all. At trial, a surgeon testified to removing bullet fragments from both of the rapper’s feet, with X-rays presented in court showing tiny fragments that remained.

Mr. Lanez, who opted not to testify in his own defense, has not detailed his version of events, though he released an album barely two months after the encounter in which he denied shooting Megan Thee Stallion, focusing instead on their personal relationship.

“We both know what happened that night and what I did/But it ain’t what they sayin’,” he rapped.

Megan Thee Stallion later responded in her own track, titled “Shots Fired,” in which she seemed to recount what led to the shooting — “He talkin’ ’bout his followers, dollars,” she raps, adding, “I told him, ‘You’re not poppin’, you just on the remix’” — as well as its aftermath. (“You offered M’s not to talk, I guess that made my friend excited, hmm/now y’all in cahoots.”)

On the stand, Megan Thee Stallion said she had initially lied about the extent of her personal involvement with Mr. Lanez, including in a television interview with Gayle King, because it was “disgusting,” she said. “How could I share my body with somebody who could shoot me?”

Even as her career skyrocketed, the assault had caused her to “lose my confidence, lose my friends, lose myself,” she said in court. “I wish he had just shot and killed me.”

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