Prosecutors attempted to add two new witness tampering charges to Tory Lanez’s felony assault trial on Monday but were shut down by the judge who said they waited too long.
Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney Kathy Ta entered her motion for the new charges on Monday, citing California Penal Code 136.1, which makes it a crime to attempt to dissuade a witness.
“It’s based on testimony by both the victim and Ms. (Kelsey) Harris,” about “statements the defendant made in the car, offering them a million dollars” to remain silent about the shooting that wounded Megan in both feet on July 12, 2020, Ta told the court.
Judge David Herriford responded by asking why prosecutors waited so long considering Megan made the underlying allegation early in the case. Ta said she wasn’t sure how Harris was going to testify, but given that she did appear to corroborate Megan’s claim during her turn on the witness stand, they decided to file over the alleged “$1 million bribe.”
Lanez’s defense lawyer George Mgdsyan objected Monday, saying prosecutors had known since September what Harris’ testimony would likely be, and the court agreed. Herriford said the late addition placed the defense in a “difficult position” in terms of planning and response time.
“I think it’s unfair at this juncture, so I would deny that motion,” the judge said.
Lanez, whose legal name is Daystar Peterson and is a citizen of Canada, pleaded not guilty to three felony charges in the high-profile case including assault with a firearm causing great bodily injury; concealing a loaded, unregistered firearm in a vehicle; and the recently added count of discharging a firearm with gross negligence.
If convicted as charged, the Alone at Prom rapper faces 22 years and eight months in prison and subsequent deportation.
Earlier on Monday, prosecutors were unable to locate an important witness and asked the court for an extra day to present their case or permission to re-open their presentation after defense rests. While the witness was not named, a source told Rolling Stone that prosecutors were referring to Megan’s former bodyguard Justin Edison.
Over the weekend, Megan’s lawyer Alex Spiro said Edison went “missing” ahead of his expected testimony in the case. “He was set to testify. He’s somebody who’s always plugged-in, on the grid, responsive, and as he’s set to testify in a violent crimes case, he goes missing,” Spiro said.
In his opening statement last week, Deputy District Attorney Alexander Bott told jurors that Edison would take the stand, and stated that he visited Lanez’s house a day after the shooting and heard the rapper confess to being the triggerman.
“As the court can see, there has been significant due-diligence with respect to this witness,” Ta argued on Monday, asking for more time.
Judge Herriford signaled he would allow prosecutors to refrain from resting their case as they searched for their witness. “Alright, let’s see how far we can get,” he said.
Prosecutors then re-called two prior witnesses before handing the reins to Peterson’s defense. LAPD Officer Sandra Cabral returned to the stand first to introduce police bodycam footage showing the police stop after the shooting. Jurors saw video of Harris being handcuffed, crying and asking, “Megan, you okay?” as Megan limped away to an ambulance, also in handcuffs.
Cabral said she didn’t see Tory Lanez’s “demeanor” as he was handcuffed and stood with his head down, facing a wall.
On cross-examination, defense lawyer George Mgdesyan asked if Cabral recalled hearing Lanez also expressed concern for Megan, saying, “Meg-o, you’re gonna be OK, you OK?” Prosecutors objected to the question, and the judge agreed it was improper, so the officer did not answer.
Prosecutors then recalled a DA investigator to ask about the so-called diss track targeting Megan that Harris released in November 2020 titled “Bussin Back.” They highlighted the lyrics, “You know it wasn’t me,” and “All you had to do was clear your best friend’s name,” apparently to further combat the defense theory that Harris could have been the shooter.
Mgdesyan later called Megan’s former stylist Eric “EJ” Culberson to the stand to testify about the party he attended at Kylie Jenner’s house with Megan, Harris and Peterson ahead of the shooting.
Culberson corroborated Harris’ prior testimony that Megan and Harris left Jenner’s house alone in a Cadillac Escalade with Peteron’s driver before they allegedly returned to retrieve Peterson a short time later. When she testified last week, Megan said she didn’t leave the party until she was able to convince Peterson to join her.
The stylist also said he never heard Megan or Harris claim that Tory carried a gun, and that he did not see a firearm at any point the night of the alleged shooting.