Tory Lanez and his “massive ego” couldn’t handle being disrespected and ditched by Megan Thee Stallion on a California curbside two years ago, so he opened fire with a semiautomatic pistol, hit Megan in both feet and then started “manipulating” her into silence, a the prosecutor said Thursday in her closing argument.
Lanez’s defense lawyer, meanwhile, used his last address to jurors to challenge Megan’s credibility. He also tried to convince jurors that the lack of DNA conclusively linking Lanez to the 9mm handgun found at his feet was enough to acquit the “Luv” singer based on reasonable doubt.
After hearing the dueling summaries, a jury of five men and seven women deliberated for three hours Thursday and agreed to resume Friday rather than wait until after the holiday weekend.
Lanez has pleaded not guilty to felony assault with a firearm; concealing a loaded, unregistered gun in a vehicle; and discharging a firearm with gross negligence. He faces up to 22 years in prison and deportation to Canada if convicted as charged.
Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney Kathy Ta had the last word in her rebuttal argument Thursday morning, telling jurors she hoped something Megan said during her testimony last week had “resonated” with them.
“There is not a day that goes by where somebody is not calling me a liar or is not shaming me for being a grown woman and having sex. This whole story has not been about the shooting, it’s only been about who is Tory having sex with,” Megan said in the testimony projected on a screen and read aloud by the prosecutor.
Ta then blasted Lanez’s defense lawyer, George Mgdesyan, for having “name-dropped” in his own closing argument two other famous men he claimed had some type of sexual relationship with Megan.
“He said this case was about sexual relationships. That’s not true. This case has always been about the shooting,” Tat argued. “Why did the defense do this? He wants to play on age-old prejudices and biases. But you are all better than that.”
She said the case “is not about anyone’s sex life” and urged jurors to look at the evidence and sworn testimony. She said it was Lanez’s “bruised ego” that led to the shooting. “(Megan) disrespected his rapping. She’s insulting him as a rapper, and that pissed him off. He had a massive ego and he couldn’t handle being disrespected. And how dare she have the audacity to walk away from him. So he reasserted his dominance. He was going to show her.”
During her harrowing turn on the witness stand, Megan’s backlash over the shooting turned her from a victim into a “villain” and left her feeling suicidal at times. She said it also affected her relationship with boyfriend Pardison Fontaine, leaving her worried and ashamed about what he might encounter online.
In a message posted to his Instagram stories Thursday, Fontaine expressed his support for women who step forward amid adversity.
“To any woman especially those of color who have suffered an injustice, I feel for you,” he wrote. “When you do find the courage to speak up.. it seems you will be ridiculed.. your credibility will (be) questioned.. your entire past will be held under a magnifying glass.. in an instant you can go from victim to defendant in the eyes of the public.. to any one with a daughter Sister mother niece or aunt.. I pray for their protection.. I pray for their covering.. I wouldn’t wish this on anyone.”
Ta said Megan became complicit in a coverup at the outset of the investigation because Lanez was “manipulating” her and Kelsey Harris, Megan’s former best friend who was also present at the shooting.
According to Mgdesyan, Harris shot Megan after Lanez revealed he had been sleeping with both women. Lanez allegedly made the statement during a drunken dispute inside his Cadillac Escalade following a pool party at Kylie Jenner’s house.
“The entire defense theory is that the reason Megan lied is because it was more convenient from a PR perspective to say Tory was the shooter instead of Kelsey. Make that make sense,” Ta challenged the jury, saying Megan’s decision to finally step forward and name her assailant was incredibly difficult for her in the male-dominated rap music industry.
“Every man that’s in a position of power in the music industry, even people who are not even rappers, they never cared about what my side of the story was. They immediately took the side of the man and have been giving me hell for the last going on three years,” Megan said in testimony last week that Ta read to the jury.
“He is a fellow rapper in the industry. He has the support of the boy’s club. It would have been easier for her to say, ‘My crazy assistant did this to me.’ It is much harder for her to come out against Tory,” Ta argued. “She had to think about it because she was concerned about what it would cost her, and it cost her a lot.”
Ta then highlighted the three text messages that Harris sent to Megan’s off-site bodyguard within five minutes of the shooting on July 12, 2020. She scoffed at the defense claim that Harris sent the texts – which read “Help / Tory shot meg / 911 ” – to cover her tracks in a sophisticated plot backed up by Megan.
“Megan would essentially have to be a sociopath to frame someone who didn’t shoot her for a nuanced PR (move),” Ta said. “You’d have to buy into this idea that both of these people are framing someone, and they’re both criminal masterminds. That doesn’t make sense.”
She addressed the defense claim that Megan must have been lying when she testified that Lanez, whose legal name is Daystar Peterson, offered her $1 million and said he was on “probation” and afraid of going to jail as sirens approached.
Mgdesyan had been adamant his client was not on probation at the time of the shooting and that a court-ordered diversion program in a separate Florida case had ended back in 2017.
“Whether or not he’s on probation in 2020 doesn’t matter. What matters is that he told Megan he was on probation because he was manipulating her,” Ta said. “He tries to appeal to her sympathy. ‘I have a gun charge, I’m on probation, please don’t say anything.’ It’s a pattern of manipulation to get the witnesses to keep a lid on everything.”
Ta also focused heavily on Sean Kelly, the homeowner who testified this week that he peered out his bedroom window and witnessed the shooting. Kelly said he believed he saw an initial muzzle flash near the hand of one of the “girls” and then a volley of shots from Peterson.
“When he talks about Kelsey, it’s a little vague, he’s not totally clear,” Ta argued Thursday, saying Kelly’s claim that the first shot was directed into the vehicle was “impossible.”
“There’s no physical evidence there was a shooting inside the car. No shattered glass, no bullets, no casings, no smell of gunpowder,” he said.
She urged jurors to take a close look at the transcript of Kelly’s testimony because she reviewed it carefully and determined Kelly got much more specific when talking about Peterson.
“He was holding something, and it flashed and made a loud noise like a gun,” Kelly testified, according to a transcript Ta put up on a screen.
“You will never hear Sean Kelly say he ever saw Kelsey holding an object,” Ta argued. “He said it twice about the defendant.”
On Thursday afternoon, jurors requested a full read-back of Kelly’s full testimony, apparently heeding Ta’s request.
In his own last words to the jury, Mgdesyan said his client has suffered in the aftermath of the shooting as well. He also painted Peterson as a victim of bias.
“The story fits better if the Black man shot a Black woman. That’s what this case is about,” he argued.
Mgdesyan also used his argument to emphasize the fact that LAPD investigators never tested the gun for Harris’ DNA.
“Who’s the only person they took DNA from? My client. Why? My client voluntarily gives his DNA, why? Why didn’t they take DNA from (the driver) or Kelsey?” he asked.
And he hammered on the fact that Peterson’s DNA was not found on the gun’s magazine and that testing on the pistol did not return a definitive hit either, meaning prosecutors could not say it was there.
“Isn’t having DNA reasonable doubt in and of itself?” he argued. “If Kelsey Harris’ DNA was on that gun, would we be here today?”
But Ta reminded jurors that Peterson’s DNA wasn’t excluded either. It was an inconclusive result, two experts testified. The prosecutor also addressed why Harris’ DNA wasn’t tested.
“By the time the DNA evidence was taken, there was already a clear suspect in this case. We had the jail call. We had the apology text,” Ta argued. “DNA is not this smoking gun. Sometimes it leads to something, sometimes it doesn’t. Here, it’s inconclusive. It does not create reasonable doubt in and of itself.”
Both Ta and Mgdesyan accused the other side of failing to put the driver, Jauquan Smith, on the witness stand. Smith was in the courthouse building on Wednesday, but because he had never given a prior statement in the case, prosecutors asked for a three-day continuance straddling the holiday weekend to prepare. Mgdesyan told Rolling Stone the defense opted not to call him out of concern the delay could lead to a mistrial.
“Who is Jauquan?” Ta asked in her final closing. “Quan is Tory’s guy. So when the defense makes this big issue about why the people didn’t call him, ask yourself this: They have the power to subpoena witnesses, just like we do. They could have subpoenaed Quan, Tory’s guy, to support their defense that Kelsey shot Meg. Why didn’t they do that?”
She said jurors should focus on the evidence that was vetted and admitted, including Peterson’s recorded jail call to Harris placed the morning of the shooting.
“Let’s say she’s the shooter, at no point does he say, ‘Kelsey, what the hell happened? What were you doing?’ And this is allegedly someone looking out for Meg. At no point in that call did he suggest Kelsey did anything. He’s the only one apologizing,” he said.
Ta also addressed Harris’s startling about-face on the witness stand last week, where she disavowed a September 2022 recorded statement to prosecutors identifying Peterson as the triggerman. She suggested Harris caught “courtroom amnesia” due to some unidentified outside influence.
“Think about what happened. She was clearly distraught. You saw the video of her arrest. She was crying and hyperventilating,” Ta said, disputing the notion that Harris sent the texts to Megan’s bodyguard, Justin Harris, to frame Peterson.
“So the idea that four minutes after the shooting, she texts Justin – not the police – but Justin, that ‘Tory shot Meg’ to cover herself, (that would be) playing 4-D chess,” Ta said. “She would be thinking not two steps ahead but ten steps ahead. … She wasn’t protecting herself, she was keeping things in the house, that’s why she texted Justin and not the police.”
In his own closing, Mgdesyan had a different explanation for why Harris was crying in the video of her arrest: “She’s the one who shot her friend. She’s upset, she’s crying because she realized what she did. That’s why she’s crying.”
Jurors left the courthouse at 4 pm PT after deliberating three hours Thursday and are due back Friday.