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

Megan Thee Stallion said Tory Lanez shot her in both feet on a July 2020 evening 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 linked 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 faces more than 20 years in prison and possible deportation.

The verdict comes after a trial filled with 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 if Megan Thee Stallion, born Megan Pete, had been shot that night, even though she was sitting next to her in an SUV. She admitted 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.

Beyond the courtroom, the trial brought out the cancerous misogynist in hip-hop and its online community. Blogs, personalities and Twitter pages routinely tilted the conversation in favor of Lanez, culminating in multiple outlets claiming he was found innocent while the jury was still deliberating.

A man holding a child

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

(AP)

During the ordeal, Megan Thee Stallion, 27, has not only persevered but taken her career to new heights. She won three Grammys in 2021 for her 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 earned lucrative partnerships with Nike, CashApp, Netflix and more.

But the shooting and the resulting media circus took a toll. While appearing in court on the second day of the trial, Megan’s voice cracked in 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.

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

Exhibit: 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 fight from his window, said he noticed two women fighting in the street, along with “flashes” of what he initially thought were fireworks. He claimed 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, eventually grabbing the gun and firing “four or five” shots. He also brought up events that had not been mentioned in anyone else’s testimony: three people assaulting a fourth woman, a girl shooting into the car, and his own fear that they would throw a girl into a river.

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

Draughhorn: Calling your own witness “hostile” is wild beyond words. Let’s not forget how badly the defense fumbled Kelsey’s stammering 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 bent on proving that prosecutors pressured her into her earlier statements, Judge Herriford would not have allowed the jury to hear Kelsey’s full 80 minutes of testimony in court.

Also, Mgdesyan might be the only person more obsessed with the status of the two rappers than Lanez. Megan could not be the victim because she has won Grammys?

Exhibit: Mgdesyan approached this trial like a late-night talk show host. He kept trying to talk to the jury—I think he even cracked one “my wife” joke — that 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 associations with both Megan and Kelsey, her former assistant.

To quote a headline written by Buzzfeed writer Shamira Ibrahim: “Tory Lanez is on trial, not Megan Thee Stallion.” When Mgdesyan tried to reduce the shooting to a quarrel between paramours or said things like “This case is about sexual relations”, he not only insulted the intelligence of the jury – he tried to shift the burden of proof 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.

Draugh Horn: It’s a very cheap trick, and it’s embarrassing how many “outlets” and commentators have fallen for it. From the start, bloggers and personalities have been cherry-picking statements and misrepresenting 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 illness despite her 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 her shooter. Throughout the trial, people flooded her comments section to mock her, asking “why did you lie” and claiming that her career would be over when “the truth came out.” The misogyny (and ego) is so strong that the same parties have already resorted to the “Roc Nation paid 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 misses.” of justice.”

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

Megan Thee Stallion outside the courthouse on December 13.

(Jason Armond/Los Angeles Times)

Exhibit: The online chatter surrounding this trial brought back memories of the social media frenzy surrounding the trial of Johnny Depp and his ex-wife, Amber Heard. In the wake of the #MeToo movement, both trials became vehicles for anti-women opportunists to increase their audience (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 misinformation and bad faith readings of survivors of domestic violence or abuse. To go back to my point about misogyny, it has become a fast and lucrative system for content farming: Earlier this year, Vice reported that the Daily Wire, a conservative website, spent tens of thousands of dollars to circulate dubious claims about Amber Heard and generated 4 million views. Disinfo pays.

Draughhorn: I’m glad to hear that Megan and her team are looking into legal action against the disinfo spreaders. Yesterday, “NOT GUILTY” was trending for a brief minute due to a false report that said Lanez had been acquitted, even though the jury was still very much in deliberations. It seemed to originate from a plot 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 were going to beat the case themselves!

Kat Tenbarge had a very poignant one tweet about how these media personalities don’t face the same responsibility you and I would when they send false information. I’d 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 even cares about the mistake.

I remember too 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 stories through blogs and Instagram pages. Her first instinct after being shot was to protect her shooter and tell 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 attacking singer August Alsina for not shaking hands. In court, he was caught grinning 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 worsened because of his fragile ego. I’m just glad it’s finally over.

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