A prosecutor told a Los Angeles County jury on Monday that rapper Tory Lanez fired five rounds at Megan Thee Stallion after she insulted his skills as a musician, lodging bullet fragments in her feet that only a surgeon could remove.
“When Megan insulted his skills as a music artist, that’s what really set him off that night,” said Deputy District Attorney Alexander Bott.
Bott’s first words to the jury were, “Dance, bitch,” which he told them Lanez yelled at Megan as he fired a handgun at her after she fled an Escalade in the Hollywood Hills after a pool party at reality TV star Kylie Jenner‘s house.
That began an approximately 30-minute opening statement that walked jurors through the July 12, 2020, shooting in the Hollywood Hills as well as the aftermath, including Lanez’s recorded phone call from jail to Megan’s friend and assistant, Kelsey Harris and a text message he sent Megan hours later. Lanez “profusely apologized for his actions, claiming he was too drunk” and acknowledged “the victim probably would never talk to him again” in the call to Harris, Bott said.
“Being drunk is no excuse,” said Bott, who is prosecuting Lanez with Deputy District Attorney Kathy Ta. “That’s what this case is about. It’s the reason you’re all here.”
But Lanez’s lawyer George Mgdesyan emphasized in his opening that Lanez never mentioned a shooting or a gun, and he described the essence of the case in starkly different terms than Bott.
“Jealousy,” Mgdesyan said. “This case is about jealousy, ladies and gentlemen.”
While tabloid-style coverage of the saga has questioned whether Megan was truly shot, Mgdesyan acknowledged Monday there’s no doubt she was.
“Ultimately, the most important thing is who got out of the car, how the fight started, and what shot that gun,” he said.
And what really happened, Mgdesyan said, stems from a jealousy-driven eruption by Megan during Jenner’s party. Megan insisted on “leaving with my client.”
“She didn’t want my client to stay at Kylie Jenner’s house,” Mgdesyan said. Lanez’s apologies afterward are for cheating and having sex with multiple women, he said. He said Lanez was apologizing not for the shooting, but for creating the fight that led to a shooting. Mgdesyan also told the jury that while Megan and Harris were once close friends, they haven’t spoken since the incident.
Bott in his opening acknowledged Megan and Lanez have had sex, telling the jury, “Before this incident, they had even been intimate with each other.” That prompted Mgdesyan to point out in his opening that Megan told CBS News‘ Gayle King that she’d never had sex with Lanez.
After two years of denial, prosecutors press her again, “Are you sure?” Mgdesyan said. “Only then does she admit.”
The openings began an expected 5-7 day trial that’s led to deep divisions within the hip-hop world, with a crowd of music journalists and rap enthusiasts among those packing Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge David Herriford‘s courtroom for the roughly four-hour trial day. Lanez is charged with assault with semiautomatic firearm – personal use of a firearm, and intentional discharge of a firearm. Last week, prosecutors added a third charge of negligent discharge of a firearm, which is essentially an alternative to the assault charge, which requires intent.
Lanez, 30, faces a maximum of nearly 23 years in prison if convicted. He walked into the Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center in downtown Los Angeles about 10 a.m. Tuesday, hand-in-hand with his young son, who was not in the courtroom during trial and instead played in the hallway with Lanez’s crew.
Megan, 27, is to testify Tuesday, and Bott told jurors he believes they’ll find her reasons for first telling police she’d stepped on glass, not that she’d been shot, “very compelling.”
Megan Thee Stallion is to testify tomorrow. Judge Herriford has other cases in the morning so he doesn’t anticipate starting until 10:45 a.m. Here’s Tory Lanez’s lawyer George Mgdesyan discussing his looming cross-examination. pic.twitter.com/E62H8GqFJC
— Meghann Cuniff (@meghanncuniff) December 13, 2022
Bott played part of Lanez’s recorded jail call to Harris for jurors in his opening, then in full during testimony, when it was officially entered as a piece of evidence jurors will have with them during deliberation. Each juror was temporarily given a transcript of the recording to read as it played.
In the call, Lanez tells Harris in part, “But bruh, I just want you to know bruh, I was just so fucking drunk…That’s not going to make my actions right.” He added, “Like, I never did that shit if I wasn’t” so drunk.
Lanez’s texts to Megan after he got out of jail read in part, “I know u prolly never gonna talk to me anyway…But I genuinely just got too drunk…I can’t change what I did.”
Bott also drew attention in his opening to a security guard for Megan, who he said will testify that Lanez told him he was the shooter, but that he’d been aiming at the ground.
And while Lanez didn’t mention a shooting or a gun in the text to Megan or phone call to Harris, Harris bluntly told Megan’s security guard in three text messages moments after the shooting, “Help” “Tory shot Meg” “911.”
Bott displayed the texts for the jury, ending his opening with a PowerPoint slide with Lanez’s photo in the middle and various evidence pointing toward him, including the texts and jail call.
“Megan will tell you that she was terrified,” Bott said earlier, describing how she “sustained gunshot wounds to both of her feet.” He played for jurors a 911 call reporting four gunshots then said Megan “hobbles over” to the front of a home and “leaves a trail of blood behind.”
Harris, having just seen her friend shot, goes over to comfort Megan, and Lanez approached, Bott said. Bott told jurors Harris was scared of Lanez but also approached him, and “he physically assaulted her,” and pulled her hair. That’s when Megan and Harris decided to get back in the Escalade with Lanez, fearing being stranded outside in their swimsuits and wanting to “get to a place of safety.”
Police responding to the 911 calls of shots fired stopped the Escalade at Hollywood Boulevard and Formosa Avenue and ordered everyone out of the car at gunpoint, starting with Lanez’s driver. Police body camera footage shows Megan struggling to walk as she bleeds from her feet.
“You can see little blood puddles when she’s walking,” Bott told the jury as the video played.
Police found a gun on the floor of the Escalade where Lanez had been sitting, Bott said, and it was in “the slide lock position” which “means every single round in the gun had been fired.” It was also warm, Bott said, which indicates it was recently fired.
Megan was taken to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles for treatment, which Bott said was “the first time she truly was in a safe place.”
“The emotions of what happened, the impact of what the defendant did to her really took over,” Bott said before playing a clip of Megan crying as she spoke with emergency responders. One of the foot wounds required surgery to remove “three major bullet fragments,” Bott said. A doctor will testify that had the fragments stayed in Megan’s foot, she could experience constant pain. He displayed for the jury a photo of Megan’s wounded foot.
“She still has that scar today,” Bott said.
Bott acknowledged that both Harris and Lanez tested positive for gunshot residue. A analysis of the gun revealed four people’s DNA, and Lanez “couldn’t be excluded,” though Mgdesyan pointed out in his opening that investigators never tested for Harris’ DNA.
Mgdesyan said the fight that preceded the shooting included Megan, Lanez and Harris returning to Jenner’s house to get Megan’s things, Mgdesyan said, and Megan was “so drunk” and “so jealous” about Lanez’s perceived interest in Jenner that she began making a scene.
“To the point where Kylie Jenner told her, ‘It’s time for you to leave,'” he said. Lanez knew Megan wouldn’t leave without him, so he left, too, but in the Escalade, Megan and Harris “were upset that my client didn’t want to leave with her; he wanted to stay with Kylie Jenner.”
He said Harris joined the argument and gave the jury some historical context: “My client had a relationship with Kelsey prior to being in a relationship with Megan.”
Mgdesyan said Harris said “Megan did the same thing when I was dating DaBaby,” as well as Brooklyn Nets star Ben Simmons. He said a neighbor who heard loud noises will testify he saw Harris get out of the car and walk to the front door where Megan is seated.
“He sees a fistfight between the two girls,” Mgdesyan told the jury. Mgdesyan also disputed Bott’s claim that Lanez said “Dance, bitch,” telling the jury Megan is the only one who has said that. “Only problem, ladies and gentlemen? Nobody else heard, ‘Dance, bitch,'” he said.
Prosecutors’ first witness was Los Angeles police Officer Rogelio Diaz, who described finding four spent shell casings at the scene of the shooting, as well as an acrylic nail, a pendant and a yellow chain. Photos of each item were shown to jurors and entered as evidence – the acrylic nail appeared to be white.
Jurors also heard each 911 call about the gunshots, and they heard from Officer Sandra Cabral, who was one of two officers who stopped the Escalade minutes after Megan was shot. Bott questioned Cabral about gun shot residue tests she performed on Harris, Lanez and Lanez’s driver, with photos of the three entered as evidence. Harris is wearing a black bikini while Lanez is shirtless in swim trunks. Mgdesyan asked if Harris”looked like she’d been in a fight.”
“I don’t know,” Cabral answered. She later answered that one of Harris swimsuit straps “was undone,” while Mgdesyan said it had “been ripped off.”
The final witness on Monday was Los Angeles police Detective William Acosta, who introduced as evidence the recording of Lanez’s phone call to Harris from jail shortly after his arrest. In cross-examination, Mgdesyan asked Acosta if Lanez specifically mentioned a shooting or a gun.
“No, he did not,” Acosta said.
To try to emphasize that Lanez was apologizing to Harris, not Megan, Mgdesyan followed up by asking if Acosta knows why Lanez would apologize to Harris, and if is Lanez shot Harris, but Judge Herriford sustained objections from prosecutors for speculation, so Acosta never answered.
Trial resumes about 10:45 a.m. Pacific time on Tuesday, with Megan expected to be on the stand all day.
Follow reporter Meghann Cuniff on Twitter for live updates from the courthouse.
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