Opening statements in the trial of Tory Lanez, the rapper accused of shooting fellow rapper Megan Thee Stallion in the foot, began on Monday in Los Angeles. Lanez, whose real name is Daystar Peterson, faces more than 22 years in prison if he is convicted on all three felony counts he is currently charged with.
Los Angeles county prosecutors Kathy Ta and Alexander Bott allege Peterson shot the rapper, whose real name is Megan Pete, with a semi-automatic firearm during an argument that began inside a vehicle in Hollywood Hills. Peterson has pleaded not guilty to three separate felony charges stemming from the alleged shooting including assault and having a concealed gun in a vehicle.
He recently waived his right to a jury trial on a newly added felony charge of discharge of a firearm with gross negligence, meaning Judge David Herriford will decide that case alone.
George Mgdesyan, Peterson’s defense attorney, argues that Kelsey Harris, Pete’s assistant and close friend was the one who shot the Texas-born rapper after they got into a verbal and allegedly physical confrontation.
“Jealousy, this case is about jealousy,” Mgdesyan told jurors during his opening statement on Monday.
The saga between the rappers began over two years ago when Peterson was arrested for having a concealed weapon in mid-July 2020 and Pete was at the scene. On 20 August, after weeks of speculation, Pete went on Instagram Live to say Peterson shot her. The incident has resulted in a fallout that has largely played out online, with both artists using their music and social media to express their sides of the story.
Peterson has maintained his innocence, accused Pete of lying about being shot and claimed that her Roc Nation management team was trying to frame him, according to social media posts and lyrics in his September 2020 album. In a tweet, Peterson has implied that he was in an intimate relationship with the rapper and one of her friends, and this led to the conflict.
Pete has vehemently denied ever being in a romantic relationship with Peterson, including during a high-profile interview with Gayle King. However prosecutors say that Pete will testify that the two rappers were in fact intimate at some point.
Pete has often shot back on social media at people – including other rappers and hip-hop media personalities – who have questioned her version of events. Pete has criticized what she sees as hypocrisy among people who were outspoken about violence against Black women at the hands of police but were silent or outright dismissive and antagonistic as it applies to her.
“After a party, I was shot twice as I walked away from him,” she wrote in an October 2020 New York Times opinion piece. “Even as a victim, I have been met with skepticism and judgment. The way people have publicly questioned and debated whether I played a role in my own violent assault proves that my fears about discussing what happened were, unfortunately, warranted.”
High-profile women in politics and social justice causes, such as congresswoman Maxine Waters and Tarana Burke, who started the #MeToo movement, have rallied behind Pete. They were among more than a dozen others who signed an open letter penned by the Southern Black Girls and Women’s Consortium in support of the rapper who they say is facing “continued verbal and cultural violence”.
Throughout jury selection attorneys for the defense and prosecution have alluded to a number of high-profile potential witnesses. Peterson’s defense attorneys confirmed Pete would testify in the trial Wednesday. Other possible witnesses include Kylie Jenner, who hosted the party that preceded the argument between the musicians, and Corey Gamble, Kris Jenner’s boyfriend, who was also at the home.
Attorneys also expect to call up medical professionals and law enforcement officers, including the former Los Angeles police detective Ryan Stogner, who was described as “one of, if not the most important witness for the defense” by Mgdesyan.
In December last year, Stogner testified that he interviewed Pete on two separate occasions. She allegedly told him that Peterson shot at her feet while she stood outside the SUV the pair and their associates were riding in. Peterson was allegedly intoxicated and shouted, “Dance, bitch,” while firing his gun toward Pete’s feet, Rolling Stone reported.
Stogner was “relieved of his duties” by the LAPD after he was accused of spousal abuse, prosecutors revealed during an on-the-record conversation between trial attorneys and Herriford. Last month, the district attorney’s office declined to file charges against him, the office told the Guardian.
Since charges against Peterson were announced, he has violated two separate court orders that forbade him from being within 100ft of Pete or discussing the rapper or his court case on his social media accounts or to any other people not involved in the trial. He was briefly detained in early April after writing tweets that Herriford determined to be about Pete.
The trial is scheduled to last for at least two weeks.