A judge sentenced rapper Tory Lanezto 10 years in prison Tuesday for shooting and wounding hip-hop superstar Megan Thee Stallion in the feet, bringing a conclusion to a three-year legal and cultural saga that saw two careers, and lives, thrown into turmoil.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge David Herriford handed down the sentence to the 31-year-old Lanez, who was convicted in December of three felonies: assault with a semiautomatic firearm; having a loaded, unregistered firearm in a vehicle and discharging a firearm with gross negligence.
From the initial incident in the Hollywood Hills in July of 2020, to the marathon two-day sentencing hearing, the case created a firestorm in the hip-hop community, churning up issues including the reluctance of Black victims to speak to police, gender politics in hip-hop, online toxicity, protecting Black women and the ramifications of misogynoir, a particular brand of misogyny Black women experience.
Herriford said it was “difficult to reconcile” the portrait Lanez’s friends and family painted during the hearing of a kind, charitable person and good father to a 6-year-old son with the person who fired the gun at Megan.
“Sometimes good people do bad things,” Herriford said. “Actions have consequences, and there are no winners in this case.”
Megan testified during the trial that Lanez fired the gun at the back of her feet and shouted for her to dance as she walked away from an SUV in which they had been riding, after leaving a pool party at Kylie Jenner’s home. She had to have surgery to remove bullet fragments. She revealed who had fired the gun only months later.
“Since I was viciously shot by the defendant, I have not experienced a single day of peace,” Megan said in a statement read in court by a prosecutor on Monday. “Slowly but surely, I’m healing and coming back, but I will never be the same.”
Lanez asked Herriford for mercy just before the judge delivered his sentence, requesting either probation or a minimal prison sentence.
“If I could turn back the series of events that night and change them,” I would, Lanez continued. “The victim was my friend. The victim is someone I still care for to this day.”
He added, “Everything I did wrong that night, I take full responsibility for.”
Lanez appeared stunned while the sentence was read, but had no audible reaction. His family and fans in the courtroom also remained quiet after the sentence.
The rapper was given about 10 months of credit for time he’s served, most of it spent in jail since his conviction in December.
“We’re extremely disappointed,” Lanez’s lead attorney Jose Baez said outside the courthouse. “I have seen vehicular homicide and other cases where there’s death, and the defendant still gets less than 10 years.”
Baez called the sentence “really just another example of someone being punished for their celebrity status and someone being utilized to set an example. And he’s not an example. He’s a human being.”
Lanez’s lawyers plan to appeal the verdict, and to attempt to have him released on bail while they do.
Megan, whose legal name is Megan Pete, was repeatedly praised by prosecutors for her courage in testifying during the case and enduring online campaigns of hatred directed at her.
“I hope that Miss Pete’s bravery gives hope to those who feel helpless,” said Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón of Megan at a news conference after the sentencing.
Prosecutors had sought a 13-year prison sentence. Legally, Lanez had been eligible for up to 22.
During Monday’s session, Lanez’s father, Sonstar Peterson, choked back tears as he talked about how the rapper’s mother died when he was 11, just days after she first showed symptoms of the rare blood disorder that would lead to her death.
“I don’t think anybody ever gets over that,” he said of their youngest child, whose legal name is Daystar Peterson. “But his music became his outlet.”
Lanez began releasing mixtapes in 2009 and saw a steady rise in popularity, moving on to major-label albums. His last two reached the top 10 on Billboard’s charts.
Megan Thee Stallion, now 28, was already a major rising star at the time of the shooting, and her prominence has surged since. She won a Grammy for best new artist in 2021, and she had No. 1 singles with “Savage,” featuring Beyoncé, and as a guest on Cardi B’s “WAP.”
The elder Peterson, who is a Christian minister, was one of several people who gave statements on Lanez’s character and charitable giving — as did the mother of Lanez’s son. Dozens more wrote letters to Herriford, including rapper Iggy Azalea,who asked the judge to hand down a sentence that was “transformative, not life-destroying.”
Herriford said Lanez’s 6-year-old also sent in a handwritten letter, but the judge did not describe it further.
Lanez’s family and supporters have packed the courtroom; during the trial, they contended his prosecution was unjustly brought on by Megan and powerful figures in music. After the verdict was read in December, Lanez’s father denounced the “wicked system” that led to his son’s conviction; on Monday, Sonstar Peterson apologized to Herriford for the outburst.
The judge had handed several small victories to each side during the sentencing hearing.
He found that Megan, who was in an isolated area wearing only a bathing suit with no shoes, was an especially vulnerable victim when she was shot, but that Lanez was not overly cruel or callous in firing at her.
The judge found that Lanez posed no threat to public safety and that his lack of a criminal record should work in his favor.
Lanez’s lawyers argued that he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder from his mother’s death and other childhood difficulties. That stress led to serious alcohol abuse as an adult, they said.
But the judge agreed with prosecutors that those mental illnesses should not be considered in the sentencing, and in the end gave prosecutors most of what they wanted.
Under California law, Lanez was only allowed probation in the case if the judge found unusual circumstances.
The judge found that the case was only unusual because of the two famous people involved, which he said was not a factor.
“He should not be treated severely because he’s a celebrity,” Hereford said, “nor should he be treated with leniency because he’s a celebrity.”