A jury believed Megan Thee Stallion; why didn’t influencers do it?

Megan Thee Stallion said Tory Lanez shot her in both feet one evening in July 2020 in the Hollywood Hills.

More than two years after the shooting, an LA jury said they believed her.

On Friday, Lanez, the Canadian rapper born Daystar Peterson, was convicted of all three charges related to the shooting of hip-hop superstar Megan Thee Stallion: assault with a semi-automatic firearm, carrying an unregistered firearm and discharging a firearm with gross negligence.

Lanez risks more than 20 years in prison and possible deportation.

The verdict comes after a trial full of false starts, conflicting testimony and bizarre plot twists. Megan Thee Stallion’s former friend and assistant, Kelsey Nicole, told detectives that Lanez, 30, was the shooter in a lengthy interview in September. She also texted Megan’s bodyguard the night of the incident, saying “Help, Tory shot Meg.”

But on the stand, she contradicted her earlier statements, saying she didn’t even know Megan Thee Stallion, born Megan Pete, had been shot that night, despite sitting next to her in an SUV. She admitted that Lanez had offered her $1 million in the wake of the shooting, but denied it was a bribe and claimed she did not accept it.

Outside the courtroom, the trial brought to light the cancerous misogyny within hip-hop and the online community. Blogs, personalities and Twitter pages routinely slanted the conversation in favor of Lanez, culminating in several outlets claiming he was found not guilty while the jury was still deliberating.

A man holding a child

Tory Lanez leaves the courthouse with her son on December 13.

(AP)

Through the ordeal, Megan Thee Stallion (27) has not only persevered, but also taken her career to new heights. She won three Grammys in 2021 for the song “Savage,” with an appearance by Beyoncé on the remix, delivered the sexually liberating No. 1 anthem “WAP” with Cardi B, hosted “Saturday Night Live” and landed lucrative partnerships with Nike, CashApp, Netflix and more.

But the shooting and the resulting media circus took a toll. As she appeared in court on the second day of her trial, Megan’s voice cracked on the stand as she spoke of the turmoil she had suffered since telling the world who shot her in 2020.

“I wish he would have just shot and killed me if I knew I was going to have to go through this torture,” she testified.

The Times’ music reporters Kenan Draughorne and Suzy Exposito discuss the trial and the fallout.

Draughhorns: Guilty! After two and a half years of mess.

Display: I think it was basically over for the defense when they called their key witness, Sean Kelly, on Tuesday. Kelly, a neighbor who saw part of the argument from his window, said he noticed two women fighting in the street, along with “flashes” that he initially thought were fireworks. He claimed that he first saw the muzzle flashes coming from “the girl”, but also saw a “short guy” get out of the car to join the fight, and eventually took the gun and fired “four or five” shots. He also brought up incidents not mentioned in anyone else’s testimony: three people beating up a fourth woman, a girl shooting into the car, and his own fear that they were going to throw a girl into a river.

It was a terrible look for the defense – who then turned around and tried to brand Kelly as a “hostile” witness.

Draugh Horns: Calling your own witness “hostile” is wild beyond words. Let’s not forget how badly the defense fumbled Kelsey’s stuttering appearance in court, where she denied everything she had told prosecutors in September, instead claiming she “couldn’t remember” even after being granted immunity. Had Lanez’s attorney, George Mgdesyan, not been so keen to prove that prosecutors pressured her into her earlier statements, Judge Herriford would not have allowed the jury to hear Kelsey’s entire 80-minute testimony in court.

Mgdesyan may also be the only person more obsessed with the two rappers’ status than Lanez. Megan could not be the victim because she has won Grammys?

Display: Mgdesyan approached this trial like a late-night talk show host. He kept trying to talk to the jury – I think he even took a piece “my wife” joke – which would fly in a script, but not in a court of law.

Worse, he relied on misogyny throughout the trial. The defense’s entire strategy had been to shift the focus from Lanez’s behavior to his alleged dalliances with both Megan and Kelsey, her former assistant.

To quote a headline written by Buzzfeed writer Shamira Ibrahim: “Tory Lanez is on probation, not Megan Thee Stallion.” When Mgdesyan tried to downplay the shooting as an argument between paramours or said things like, “This case is about sexual relationships,” he not only insulted the jury’s intelligence—he tried to shift the burden of proof away from Lanez and onto Megan, both in court and for those who follow online. Misogyny is a cheap trick. And misogyny, the acute misogyny directed at black women, is all too abundant.

Draughhorns: It’s a very cheap trick and it’s embarrassing how many “outlets” and commenters fell for it. From the beginning, bloggers and personalities have cherry-picked statements and misrepresented the facts: Podcaster and YouTube host DJ Akademiks said in February that Lanez’s DNA was “not found” on the gun, when the actual results were inconclusive; rapper-turned-podcast Joe Budden made light of Megan’s mental health issues despite being the victim of a shooting (he later apologized); and media personality Jason Lee of Hollywood Unlocked said that Megan had acted “aggressively” towards Lanez when the incident took place.

On the stand, Megan talked about the burden she’s had to carry since publicly naming the shooter. Throughout the trial, people flooded her comments to mock her, asking “why did you lie” and claiming her career would be over when “the truth came out.” The misogyny (and ego) is so strong that the same parties have already turned to the “Roc Nation paid off the jury” line instead of accepting the evidence. Milagro Gramz, a Houston-based hip-hop news personality who showed no remorse for pushing the “Megan may have stepped on glass” theory long after a surgeon found bullet fragments in her foot, just called the verdict “one of the biggest miscarriages ” of justice.”

A woman in a purple suit walks in front of a building

Megan Thee Stallion outside the courthouse on Dec. 13.

(Jason Armond/Los Angeles Times)

Display: The online chatter surrounding this trial evoked memories of the social media hunt surrounding the trial of Johnny Depp and his ex-wife, Amber Heard. In the wake of the #MeToo movement, both lawsuits became vehicles for misogynistic opportunists to boost audiences (and revenue).

Many journalists, namely NBC News reporters Kat Tenbarge and Char Adams, has addressed the roles of bloggers and other online voices in the Lanez trial in spreading disinformation and bad faith readings about domestic violence or abuse survivors. Going back to my point about misogyny, it has become a fast and lucrative content farming scheme: Earlier this year, Vice reported that the Daily Wire, a conservative website, spent tens of thousands of dollars circulating dubious claims about Amber Heard and generated 4 million views. Disinfo pays.

Draugh Horns: I am glad to hear that Megan and her team are exploring legal action against the disinfo spreaders. Yesterday, “NOT GUILTY” trended for a short minute due to a false report that said Lanez had been acquitted, despite the jury still being in full deliberation. It seemed to originate from a plot of land judgment form that went around the courthouse, the first option of which read “not guilty” as a choice for the jury. And people online celebrated as if they had beaten the case themselves!

Kat Tenbarge had a very poignant one chirping about how these media personalities don’t face the same accountability you and I would when they broadcast inaccurate information. I would probably get fired if I falsely tweeted that Lanez was not guilty, especially if The Times ran with the story and blasted the wrong verdict far and wide. Rap sites like No Jumper and Say Cheese get to delete the tweet and move on to the next hip-hop drama. I doubt their core audience cares about the bug.

Besides, I remember long delay before Megan publicly accused Lanez of shooting her. The incident took place on July 12, 2020, but she didn’t identify him as the shooter until August 20 of that year — and she only spoke out because Lanez’s team had been pushing false narratives through blogs and Instagram pages. Her first instinct after being shot was to protect her shooter, telling police she had stepped on glass when they first arrived on the scene.

While he should have been preparing for the trial of his life, Lanez was accused of assaultive the singer August Alsina because he did not shake hands. In court, he was caught smiling and shaking his head when Deputy Dist. Atty. Kathy Ta correctly said that Megan was more famous and successful than him.

The whole debacle started because of his drunken temper and got worse because of his fragile ego. I’m just glad it’s finally over.

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