Courts and Crime
The rapper convicted of shooting Megan Thee Stallion has hired David Kenner, the longtime lawyer of Suge Knight and Snoop Dogg, to handle his motion for a new trial
Tory Lanez’s sentencing has been postponed to April 10th. The new date was set during a brief hearing on Tuesday. The gag order preventing Lanez from speaking about the trial was also lifted
Lanez is hoping Snoop Dogg’s former criminal lawyer can convince a Los Angeles judge he deserves a new trial after a Los Angeles jury found him guilty of shooting Megan Thee Stallion in December.
The “Luv” singer made his first post-conviction court appearance in January and told the judge he wanted lawyers David Kenner and Matthew Barhoma to replace his outgoing trial attorney George Mgdesyan and Shawn Holley, his original defense lawyer who missed the trial due to a conflict.
Lanez, whose legal name is Daystar Peterson, was wearing an orange jail uniform and white rosary around his neck for the afternoon hearing that was delayed due to an issue with his jail wristband being “too loose,” Kenner told Rolling Stone.
Judge David Herriford signed off on the lawyer change and agreed to push Lanez’s sentencing from Jan. 27 to Feb. 28 at the earliest to give Kenner time to review trial transcripts and file a motion for a new trial. The judge also said Kenner could argue a separate motion that date seeking to dissolve the protective order barring Lanez from discussing the case.
“We look forward to litigating the motion for new trial,” Kenner told reporters after the hearing, declining to elaborate on possible grounds. “We are very confident.”
Kenner, 81, is legendary in hip-hop circles. He successfully defended Snoop Dogg at the rapper’s 1996 murder trial, which ended in acquittal. More recently, he defended Suge Knight at a civil trial over claims the Death Row Records founder negligently killed friend Terry Carter with his truck. That trial ended with a hung jury.
Kenner also is representing Pras Michel in a federal criminal trial alleging the Fugees member helped Malaysian financier Jho Low covertly funnel money to U.S. politicians.
At the hearing Tuesday, Kenner asked Judge Herriford to retire the protective order issued in April 2022 that prohibits Peterson from mentioning Megan or any details about the criminal case in public comments.
“Your honor, most respectfully, there have been a number of other people connected with the case posting on social media and putting out statements. I would suggest to the court that the way the (protective order) was written, it’s a prior restraint on free speech,” Kenner argued Tuesday. “I think it’s inappropriate for Mr. Peterson to be put in a position where he’s stopped from using his voice.”
The judge said he wasn’t “inclined” to ditch the order “at this juncture” but said Kenner could try again Feb. 28.
Mgdesyan shot down speculation Peterson fired him after the guilty verdict by telling Rolling Stone he willingly stepped aside to make way for Kenner to handle the motion for a new trial and expected appeal. Mgdesyan said he doesn’t work on appeals, but he may still attend Peterson’s sentencing.
“I’m still friends with Tory, friends with the family,” he says.
It was Dec. 23 that Peterson was convicted of shooting Megan The Stallion in both feet back in July 2020.
Jurors capped a two-week trial by deciding he assaulted Megan with a semi-automatic firearm, causing great bodily injury, discharged the weapon with gross negligence, and possessed the concealed, unregistered weapon inside his SUV.
He’s facing up to 22 years and eight months in prison at his sentencing set for Jan. 27. He’s also facing subsequent deportation since he’s a citizen of Canada.
“The jury got it right. I am thankful there is justice for Meg,” Megan’s lawyer, Alex Spiro, said after the unanimous decision.
Over more than three hours of harrowing testimony, Megan told jurors she was trying to escape a shouting match inside Peterson’s Cadillac Escalade when she heard the rapper say, “Dance, bitch!” and turned to see him pointing a 9mm semi-automatic pistol at her.
“I’m in shock. I’m scared. I hear a gun going off. I couldn’t believe he was shooting at me,” she testified in the packed courtroom. “He was holding the gun, pointing it at me.”
The Grammy winner, 27, said after she was shot, she dropped to the ground and crawled to a nearby driveway. “I looked down at my feet, and I see all the blood,” she said. “Now everybody’s screaming. He looked shocked.”
Megan described her “terrified” reaction to the attack and said Peterson apologized and begged her to keep quiet as sirens approached. She initially told police she stepped on glass out of fear and confusion, she testified.
“He’s saying, ‘Please don’t say anything. I’ll give y’all a million dollars. I can’t go to jail. I already got caught with a gun before,’” she testified.
The trial included head-spinning testimony from Megan’s former best friend Kelsey Harris, who was present in the Escalade the morning of the shooting and who gave an 80-minute recorded statement to prosecutors in September in which she vividly recalled Peterson firing five shots, leaving Megan wounded on the ground.
Once Harris was in the courthouse on Dec. 14 under a subpoena from prosecutors, she invoked her 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination and asked for blanket immunity. Prosecutors agreed to give her “use immunity” instead, meaning her sworn testimony couldn’t be used against her in a future proceeding, but she could still be charged with something based on other evidence.
On the witness stand, Harris disavowed key aspects of her September statement, claiming she didn’t see Peterson open fire and was operating under “assumptions” when she sent three lines of text to Megan’s bodyguard five minutes after the shooting that read: “Help / Tory shot meg / 911.”
While Harris refused to implicate Peterson in her live testimony, she said it was “ridiculous” for his defense to claim she was the shooter.
Jurors heard that while Megan was still in the hospital, Peterson sent her an obvious apology that read: “Meg, I know u prolly never gone to talk to me again, but I genuinely want u to know I’m sorry from the bottom of my heart. And i was just too drunk. Nonetheless, shit should have never happened, and I can’t change what did. I just feel horrible. Cuz I genuinely just got too drunk.”
Megan testified that she had a hard time navigating the aftermath of her attack and defended her decision to keep her prior intimate relationship with Peterson a secret leading up to the trial. She told jurors that the non-exclusive relationship left her feeling “embarrassed,” and ultimately, she considered it irrelevant to the violence that landed her in the hospital.
She told the jury that naming Peterson as her assailant came with a steep price. She said it felt like many men in the music industry “never cared about what my side of the story was” and “immediately took the side of this man.”
“Not a day that goes by where somebody is not calling me a liar or is not shaming me for being a grown woman and having sex,” she testified.
“Tory came out and told so many different lies, about me not being shot, about him not being the shooter, and making this all about a sex scandal,” she testified.
Megan said she now deals with a constant barrage of threats and harassment online. She said it left her feeling like a “sick bird” that other members of her industry sought to avoid.
“Because I was shot, I’ve been turned into some kind of villain, and he’s the victim. This has messed up my whole life,” she said, adding that she often gets “depressed” about the way she’s “being shamed” online. She also spoke in-depth about this trauma earlier this year in her Rolling Stone cover story.
At her lowest, she thought, “I wish he would have just shot and killed me (rather than) have to go through this torture,” Megan told the jury.
In her closing argument, Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Kathy Ta said it didn’t make sense that Megan would frame Peterson if Harris pulled the trigger.
“He is a fellow rapper in the industry. He has the support of the boy’s club. It would have been easier for her to say, ‘My crazy assistant did this to me.’ It is much harder for her to come out against Tory,” Ta argued. “She had to think about it because she was concerned about what it would cost her, and it cost her a lot.”
Ta said the case was “not about anyone’s sex life” and urged jurors to look at the evidence and sworn testimony. She said it was Peterson’s “bruised ego” that led to the shooting. “(Megan) disrespected his rapping. She’s insulting him as a rapper, and that pissed him off. He had a massive ego and he could not handle being disrespected. And how dare she have the audacity to walk away from him. So he reasserted his dominance. He was going to show her.”
Update: This story was updated on February 28th at 12:33 p.m. EST to include the new date of Lanez’s sentencing.