Jurors can hear the full 80-minute interview where Megan Thee Stallion’s former close friend and assistant told law enforcement that she saw rapper Tory Lanez shoot her ex-boss, a judge ruled on Thursday.
That ex-assistant, Kelsey Harris, recently disavowed her claim on the witness stand, in a startling back-flip that prosecutors appeared to attribute to pressure from the defendant. In a win for prosecutors, jurors will be able to hear the witness’s full and unedited remarks from September, before Harris’s sudden reversal.
Prosecutors had only been able to play a few parts of the recording during Harris’ testimony, to try to refresh her memory if she said she didn’t remember saying something or to try to show that her current testimony contradicted what she’d previously said.
But Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge David Herriford said they can play the full interview because Lanez’s lawyer George Mgdesyan repeatedly questioned Harris about the interview, asking if prosecutors had pressured her to make a statement.
Harris testified Thursday, “I felt like I had to” when Mgdesyan asked her about being pressured.
“Your goal was to incriminate my client and keep yourself out of it?” Mgdesyan asked.
“No,” Harris answered.
“Are you afraid of my client, Tory Lanez, Mr. Daystar Peterson?” Mgdesyan asked, referring to his client by his birth name. Lanez sat at the defense table looking at Harris, his family and supporters seated behind him.
“No,” Harris answered.
Deputy District Attorney Alexander Bott told Herriford that Mgdesyan’s questions about Harris’ interview and interaction with prosecutors were “unacceptable” and “unprofessional” and had “opened the door for the entire” recording of Harris’ interview to be played because it will show Harris was only told to tell the truth.
Herriford decided at the end of the day to allow it, saying it was admissible under California Evidence Code 1235 and 770 regarding prior witness statements and inconsistencies with current testimony.
That means jurors will hear the full recording of Harris speaking with prosecutors less than two months ago about the July 12, 2020, fight and shooting. As a result of the spat, Los Angeles police officer pulled over the Escalade they were getting in on Hollywood Boulevard at about 4:30 a.m. Lanez was arrested on a gun charge, while Harris went to Cedars Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles to be with Megan as she was treated bullet fragments in her feet.
One foot required surgery, assistant surgeon Lee Haruno testified Thursday. Jurors saw X-rays of Megan’s feet with bullet fragments inside. The fragments “could cause persistent pain or be symptomatic if they were left in place,” Haruno said. Haruno also said that he considers any amount of bullet in a person to be a fragment, because entire bullets generally don’t lodge intact, and surgeons don’t always see exactly what they remove. Megan was under anesthesia, the surgery lasted “probably about an hour” and she was hospitalized overnight, Haruno said.
After the doctor’s testimony, Harris retook the stand. Judge Herriford allowed Harris to invoke her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination after she told him privately why she wanted to do so, with her lawyer present. The reasons were not publicly disclosed, and prosecutors said they have no investigation into her.
In her testimony, Harris, 27, repeatedly told Deputy District Attorney Kathy Ta that she wasn’t truthful in the September interview, and she never saw Lanez with shooting as she said in the Sept. 20 interview.
She also repeatedly contradicted herself and showed a withdrawn demeanor, which Ta suggested starkly contrasted the emotion she showed in September. Ta emphasized that Harris was in a more relaxed atmosphere when she spoke with prosecutors just months ago, with her husband there to support her — and Lanez and his supporters not seated in the same room. Harris detailed the entire shooting in the interview, telling prosecutors how Lanez had threatened to shoot her and then pulled her out of the Escalade by her hair.
Jurors will be allowed to consider witness demeanor and credibility when they’re deciding whether to convict 30-year-old Lanez, who is charged with assault with semiautomatic firearm and intentional discharge of a firearm, with negligent discharge also an option. He faces a maximum of 22 years and 8 months if convicted.
Ta on Wednesday repeatedly tried to establish that Harris was in fact truthful in the September interview while Harris repeatedly said otherwise. When Harris returned for more testimony on Thursday, Ta told her that the “use immunity” she’d been granted for her testimony does not cover perjury.
“You don’t have immunity to perjure yourself on the stand,” Ta said.
“Yes, ma’am,” Harris said.
It didn’t change her testimony: She said she only assumed Megan had been shot, and that she didn’t see Lanez shooting. Ta pressed her about the September interview so much that at one point she told Judge Herriford, “Your honor, I don’t remember our conversation from September. She keeps asking me the same things,” but the questioning continued.
Mgdesyan is arguing Lanez is wrongly accused and Harris was the one who fired five rounds from a semi-automatic handgun at Megan as the women fought over their duel romantic interest in Lanez and other men.
Mgdesyan named rapper DaBaby and Brooklyn Nets star Ben Simmons in his opening statement as examples, though neither man was mentioned during Megan or Harris’ testimony. Mgdesyan also has said Megan was upset that Lanez wanted to stay with reality star Kylie Jenner at her home, where Megan and Harris testified the friends had been gathering for hours, drinking, swimming and playing beer pong. Megan testified that she wasn’t bothered, but Harris testified that Megan had been laughing obnoxiously and got into a fight or argument outside before they left, though she said she didn’t know what happened.
While she didn’t want to talk about the shooting, Harris appeared less reticent when Mgdesyan pressed her about her fractured friendship with Megan, whom she’d known since 2013 and had worked for as a personal assistant as Megan’s fame grew. She said Lanez said something in the Escalade about Megan needing to stop lying, implying that Megan was hiding from Harris their past relationship because Harris had her own romantic interest in Lanez. Megan testified Tuesday that she didn’t want Harris to know she’d “dealt with him in anyway” because Harris was her close friend and she didn’t want to upset her.
“How does that make you feel that she’s done that to you multiple times?” Mgdesyan asked.
“Like anyone else would feel. Betrayed,” Harris answered.
Harris said she never heard Lanez saying, “Dance, bitch!” and denied that he’d pulled her out of the car.
Mgdesyan pressed Harris in cross about whether she and Megan were fighting just before Mega was shot. He repeatedly told her she needed to be truthful and reminded her she has immunity.
Harris hesitated, then said repeatedly how drunk she was.
“Kelsey, I understand it was alcohol,” Mgdesyan said, asking if there was any physical fighting between she and Megan.
“We probably just like bumped into each other,” she answered.
Mgdesyan also asked Harris about a rap she wrote insulting Megan in which she says, “I’m taking shots at you,” implying she was implicating herself in the shooting, for which she has repeatedly denied responsibility.
“I’m sure you’re aware of how rap lyrics go,” Harris said.
Jurors also heard from a police crime analyst who said she found gunshot residue on swabs from Lanez and Harris but not Lanez’s driver, Jaquan Smith.
A police detective who looked at a reply Lanez’s Instagram account made to a comment that said, “People saying Kelsey shot her,” also testified, with Mgdesyan establishing in cross-exam that he doesn’t know who exactly posted the comment from Lanez’s account.
Testimony is to begin Friday at 10:30 a.m.
Follow reporter Meghann Cuniff on Twitter for live updates from the courthouse.
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