There’s no doubt that someone shot Megan Thee Stallion in the Hollywood Hills in 2020.
Prosecutors have indicted Canadian hip-hop star Tory Lanez, whose real name is Daystar Peterson. They say the rapper was drunk and enraged after the hit producer “Savage”, whose real name is Megan Pete, insulted his career in a loud argument in an SUV.
But during a contentious nine-day trial fraught with allegations of witness tampering, Peterson’s team tried to put the blame on Pete’s estranged best friend, Kelsey Harris. Chief defense attorney George Mgdesyan claimed that the case was more about a romantic date than a rivalry between rappers, and that Harris exploded after it was revealed that both women were intoxicated with Peterson.
Jurors will now have to choose between these stories, as Peterson’s trial ends Thursday. He is charged with gunshot wounds, concealed possession of firearms, and reckless shooting. If convicted of all crimes and a double sentence increase, he will face up to 23 years in prison. Harris is not in court.
At the end of the day, after three hours of deliberation, the jurors asked for a “better definition” of the words “deliberately” and “deliberately”, referring to the state’s charges against Peterson. Previously, they had the court reporter read the entire statement from neighbor Sean Kelly, who was watching the incident from his balcony.
During Wednesday’s closing discussions, LA County Deputy Dist. Hunting. Alexander Bott recaps Pete’s emotional statement from last week; here the normally cool rapper admitted that he regretted reporting Peterson to the police due to the flood of criticism he received from fans and male icons in the hip-hop industry.
“I wish he had shot me and killed me if I knew I would have to go through this torture,” said 27-year-old Pete.
The closing debate ended on Thursday, and Mgdesyan continued to focus on the testimony of his neighbor Kelly, who said he saw “muzzle fires” coming from a woman’s position, implying that Harris pulled the trigger.
“[Kelly] He’s been consistent from day one,” Mgdesyan said, describing Kelly as the only independent eyewitness in the case who had no ties to Pete or anyone else.
Mgdesyan also stressed that there is no forensic evidence against Peterson. DNA tests on the pistol used in the shooting were inconclusive, and Peterson’s DNA was not found in the magazine inserted in the firearm. He questioned why on Thursday only Peterson was DNA tested and not Harris or Peterson’s driver, Jaquan Smith.
“If Kelsey Harris’ DNA was on that gun, would we be here today?” Mgdesyan asked the jurors. “The absence of DNA is a reasonable doubt.” ”
Only four people saw what happened when gunfire went off in the Hollywood Hills on the night of July 2020. Pete, Peterson, Harris, and Peterson’s driver, Smith, were in a jeep driving out of a drunken party at Kylie Jenner’s house.
Peterson refused to take the stand in the case. Although Smith appeared in court on Wednesday, the defense refused to call Smith after prosecutors asked him to continue for a week if he gave evidence. Mgdesyan said Peterson was concerned that the delay could lead to misjudgement. A spokesperson for the district attorney’s office did not respond to questions about why the postponement would be needed.
The conflict led to 911 calls, and Los Angeles police officers caught the vehicle on Hollywood Boulevard soon after. Dramatic body-cam footage showed Pete falling down bloodied as he tried to obey police orders, while Peterson was forced to lie facedown and shirtless in the middle of the street. Peterson was later arrested on suspicion of possessing an unlicensed firearm, but Pete didn’t tell police he had been shot until days later.
Mgdesyan has regularly attacked Pete’s credibility, questioning his decision to delay reporting the incident to the police and his refusal to admit that he had a sexual relationship with Peterson until trial, which he claims was at the center of the case. Mgdesyan denied Pete’s claim that he was afraid of collaborating with the police, arguing that he was trying to protect Harris and that the jury could not trust his word.
“Megan Pete is a liar. “She lied about everything about this case,” Mgdesyan said, later adding that Pete “told you Black women didn’t talk to the police, and still spoke to the police four days later.”
LA County Deputy Dist. Hunting. Kathy Ta retracted that depiction on Thursday, asking the judges why Pete would have to lie and reminding the panel of the violent reaction the actor faced after reporting the incident to authorities.
“It would be easier to say, ‘My crazy ex-assistant did this,'” Ta said, referring to Harris.
The night he was shot, Harris panicked and sent a message to Pete’s head of security that read, “Tory shot Meg.” Earlier this year, in a recorded interview with prosecutors, he identified Peterson as the gunman, reiterating Pete’s claim that Peterson had offered both women $1 million not to speak to the police.
But in court last week, Harris retracted most of those statements, refusing to say what he was lying about, saying the recorded interview wasn’t “100% true.” Harris was given limited immunity to testify and spent most of his day on the bench infuriating prosecutors. Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge David Herriford has finally allowed prosecutors to listen to Harris’ entire recorded interview for jurors, and the jury now has to determine which version of his testimony is correct.
“It’s clear something has happened to Kelesey,” Bott said of the discrepancies between his statement on Wednesday and the September interview. “Something frightened him. Maybe someone reached him. Maybe he took one of the bribes.”
However, Mgdesyan portrayed Harris’ timidity as fearing his own guilt in the case.
“He had a lawyer, and whenever he was questioned and interrogated, they went through that door,” he said, pointing to a corridor where Harris had run from the lectern several times in the past week.
Prosecutors also cited voicemails and texts Peterson sent to Harris and Pete in which he apologized for his behavior within 24 hours of the incident, but never actually admitted guilt. Bott urged the jurors to use their common sense and conclude that the only thing he could be upset about was getting shot.
Mgdesyan argued that Harris sent the texts to cover up his crime, while Bott called this allegation mind-blowing.
“Is Kelsey some sort of criminal mastermind who set a trap for the accused five minutes after he was shot?” asked.
Mgdesyan said on Thursday that prosecutors did not attach much importance to the testimony of neighbor Kelly, who witnessed the argument. However, prosecutors relied heavily on Kelly’s testimony in their rebuttal.
While Mgdesyan focused on Kelly’s claim that she had seen flashes from where Harris was standing during the debate, prosecutors reminded jurors that Kelly had testified that the “short man”—possibly little Peterson—had seen “flashes” coming from where he stood.
Ta shared excerpts from Kelly’s earlier testimony, showing that this is in line with how prosecutors said the conflict had developed: The short man – Peterson – was standing outside the car with two women – Harris and Pete – when Kelly saw the first muzzle flashes; The short man’s arm was outstretched when he saw one of the flashes and heard what he described as gunshots; and that the short man was upset by saying obscene words to women.
Ta reiterated the prosecution’s claim that Peterson was motivated by jealousy and that Pete “bruised his ego” as a rapper during a verbal argument inside the car that led to the shooting.
Peterson’s case is arguably the most prominent case, culminating in a string of celebrity trials at the courthouse involving disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein and former “That ’70s Show” star Danny Masterson.
The courtroom was nearly full every day, with some of Peterson’s fans lining up behind the gallery and praising the Ontario-born rapper in the hallway. Social media personalities often spend their lunch breaks outside the 15th-floor courtroom debating Peterson’s guilt or innocence. The day Pete testified, several women held a small rally on Temple Street to show their support for him as a domestic violence survivor.
“This whole story isn’t about getting shot. Pete testified last week, his voice cracked with frustration. “When people talk about the shooting of Megan Thee Stallion, all the headlines are that Megan Thee Stallion is on trial and I’m not on trial!”