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Tory Lanez seeks bail as he appeals Megan Thee Stallion shooting convictions, 10-year sentence
Legal experts say motions for bail pending appeal are rarely granted, particularly for violent crimes such as Lanez's first-degree assault with a firearm conviction.
In what legal experts call “an uphill battle,” rapper Tory Lanez is asking to be released on bail as he appeals his felony convictions and 10-year prison sentence for shooting Megan Thee Stallion.
A hearing is scheduled Tuesday before Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge David V. Herriford, who on Aug. 8 rejected Lanez’s request for probation and alcoholism treatment and sentenced him to 10 years in prison, with credit for 305 days served. (UPDATE: The hearing has been rescheduled to Thursday, Sept. 14 at 10:30 a.m.)
A new lawyer filed a motion this week asking that 31-year-old Lanez be allowed to halt his prison sentence and instead “live locally in the Los Angeles area” with his new wife and their six-year-old son.
Judge Herriford said Lanez’s conduct after the July 12, 2020, shooting, including song lyrics and online posts directed at Megan, was a “major aggravating factor” in his 10-year sentence, but Lanez’s motion says he won’t do anything like that again.
“Upon release, Mr. Peterson will maintain his sobriety, and have no contact with the victim nor shall he or any of his associates by his direction address her on social media or by other means,” according to the motion, referring to Lanez’s legal name, Daystar Peterson. “Mr. Peterson is a well-known musician; it is not possible for him to abscond. He is a household name through his artistry and philanthropy.”
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The motion also says freeing Lanez from jail will allow him to continue his career as a rapper and R&B singer.
“Giving Mr. Peterson bail will allow him to continue his employment while staying in the geographic Los Angeles area,” it says.
Lanez currently is in the Men’s Central Jail in Los Angeles awaiting transport to state prison. He’s been in custody since Dec. 23, when a jury convicted him of first-degree assault with a firearm, negligent discharge of a firearm and possession of a concealed unregistered firearm inside a vehicle following a near two-week trial. Lanez maintains his innocence.
A rehab owner told Judge Herriford during the sentencing hearing that Lanez is a good candidate for treatment and that she could pick him up from jail and drive him there herself. But Lanez’s new bail motion does not mention rehab and instead says Lanez will rent a home from a friend who rents “exotic” homes and cars.
“Mr. Peterson currently and in the past has contracted to rent homes and at times vehicles from Aryan Nafari, owner of [ASR] exotics, LLC,” according to the motion. “Mr. Nafari reports that Mr. Peterson makes all of his payments makes all of his payments timely, and has not caused any damage to any property that has been rented to him. Moreover, Mr. Nafari stated that he has grown close to Mr. Peterson and his family, so he trusts him.”
Filed on Monday, the five-page motion is signed by Crystal A. Morgan, a licensed California attorney since February 2021 who works for the legal services organization Unite the People. Lanez is a Unite the People board member who has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to help pay its employees and cover legal fees for people who believe the group can help free their loved ones from prison. Along with Nafari’s letter, the motion includes as an exhibit 21 letters from other people connected to Unite the People. All were written for Lanez’s sentencing or before he was charged, not for the bail hearing.
Los Angeles criminal defense attorney Louis Shapiro said motions for bail pending appeal are rarely granted, and Lanez’s “is not filed in a way that has the sense of conviction in it.”
“It’s the defense lawyer trying to make the client happy. That’s what I see here,” Shapiro told me in a phone interview Thursday. “What’s probably happening is you have a client who is obviously in the celebrity scene, who’s an accomplished artist, and suddenly he finds himself in a very bad situation, being incarcerated for many years, and he’s going to try to look for any way out.”
Attorney Michael Freedman of The Freedman Firm in Los Angeles also told me judges rarely grant motions for bail pending appeal.
“Generally, to get bail pending appeal, you have to show a substantial likelihood of prevailing on appeal, which often means a substantial likelihood you can show error by the trial judge,” Freedman said in an email. “So it’s pretty rare for the trial judge to find the defense can make this showing about the same judge’s own rulings, especially after the judge has already denied post-trial motions raising those same arguments.”
Lanez’s motion says his appeal “raises substantial legal questions, which if decided in his favor, will result in reversal.”
“Although Mr. Peterson has not received the record on appeal, substantial errors have been identified. Portions fo the following arguments are in accordance to newly enacted or updated Penal Codes. This is including, but not limited to: issues surrounding the presentation of expert witness testimony and the scientific nature of such evidence as presented to the jury; errors surrounding the addition of the enhancements; the multiplicity and similarity of the instant charges, along with a lack of evidence to carry such elements beyond a reasonable doubt; issues regarding the sentence term imposed when considering mitigating factors that were presented at the sentencing hearings; multiple instances of ineffective assistance of counsel, regarding more than one attorney of records; errors surrounding the admission or exclusion of evidence; violations of Due Process rights and other Constitutional considerations, most importantly that which arises through the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution as to protect the right to confront one’s accusers, as called for and analyzed using the two-prong test established by Crawford v. Washington (2004) 541 U.S. 36, 60; see also People v. Sanchez (2016) 63 Cal.4th 665, 680 (applying the same standard in California).
Lanez’s lawyer Jose Baez acknowledged as much in his Aug. 26 Instagram stories, writing, “I can report that because his motion for new trial covered many of the issues that will be appealed. We are way ahead of schedule.”
Judge Herriford remarked when rejecting Lanez’s motion for new trial in May that none of the alleged errors were in fact errors, and if even if they were, none warranted a new trial because “the outcome wouldn’t be different.” He said Lanez’s attorneys cherrypicked evidence, but his job was to consider all of it.
“In the end, the jury believed the prosecution’s case beyond a reasonable doubt,” Herriford said.
A motion for bail pending appeal is not the same as an appeal. Lanez’s motion will be addressed by Judge Herriford, while his pending appeal will be filed with the California Courts of Appeal’s 2nd District in Los Angeles.
An appellate case file is not yet available online, but the trial court file says a notice of appeal was received on Aug. 10. The appellate process can take one year to two years or more.
A 2nd District criminal case opinion issued on Thursday was for an appeal noticed on Sept. 28, 2022, and briefed in April and June 2023, with both sides waiving oral argument. An opinion issued on Wednesday was for an appeal noticed on Nov. 16, 2021, and briefed in April and May 2023, with both sides also waiving oral argument.
Freedman, a criminal defense attorney and former federal prosecutor, said the appellate court also has high standards for granting bail pending appeal.
“It’s also an uphill battle because even when there are strong issues on appeal, a bail motion requires early detailed briefing of those points on a much shorter timeline than you have for the appeal itself. It’s certainly not impossible to prevail, but it’s difficult for these reasons,” Freedman told me in an email.
Lanez’s bail motion acknowledges he was placed on house arrest before trial “due to an unproven and uncharged, yet alleged incident in Chicago,” referring to Lanez’s alleged assault of singer August Alsina. It doesn’t acknowledge his other pre-trial violations, including for violating a 100-foot protective order against Megan at the Rolling Loud Music Festival in Miami in 2021 with rapper DaBaby, and for violating a discovery order in early 2022 that resulted in Judge Herriford increasing his bail. But it emphasizes that Lanez never missed a court hearing while free on bail.
“He was permitted to appear at scheduled performances outside of the State of California, after charges were filed in October of 2020,” according to the motion.
The motion says Lanez is not a danger to the community, noting his lack of a lengthy criminal records, and it says he “pleads that the instant charges stem from an isolated incident where he was intoxicated.”
“For years, Mr. Peterson has generously donated his time and provided funding for countless charities and has been in such a position to do, due to his status,” the motion says “Mr. Peterson has been involved with supporting the youth, an paid legal fees for countless incarcerated individuals.”
The motion also tries to distance Lanez from his home country of Canada. Prosecutors said during his sentencing that he faces immediate deportation from the United States after release from prison, but Monday’s motion says Lanez can be trusted to stay in Los Angeles.
“Although the Peterson family originally hails from Canada, they do not have strong ties to this location. Mr. Peterson does have a close friend who is like family, that he helps provide for her child, despite this not being his biological child. Additionally, a couple of Mr. Peterson’s siblings live in Canada, but frequent the Los Angeles area to join their family. The converse is not true, as Mr. Peterson does not visit his home country often. When he does, it is for employment and at this time he will visit his friends and family.”
The motion also cites Lanez’s ties to his family, who “rely heavily upon him for care.”
“They are close-knit, where they participate in a weekly prayer group as a family. Mr. Peterson also was not only participating in such with his family throughout his trial, and now during incarceration, but moreover, he also has been leading such groups and ministering to fellow incarcerated individuals.”
Los Angeles criminal defense attorney Josh Ritter said motions for bail pending appeal aren’t granted “unless there is some sort of extraordinary argument being made that the judge is well aware of and might have some actual teeth on appeal,” such as juror misconduct. And even then, the cases usually are misdemeanors or nonviolent felonies.
“A lot of times attorneys are making their arguments to an audience of one: their client,” Ritter told me, calling motions for bail pending an appeal “an uphill battle.” “Sometimes they end up filing things that to courtroom observers appear to be frivolous but it’s kind of like, they’re taking marching orders.”
Shapiro also said Lanez’s motion isn’t frivolous.
“This is just more like, ‘probably not going to get granted,’” Shapiro said. “There’s no qualms with the lawyer filing the motion.”
Lanez was represented at sentencing by Los Angeles lawyer Matthew Barhoma and T. Edward Welbourn of Newport Beach, as well as Baez, the prominent Miami, Florida, lawyer who in 2011 got Casey Anthony acquitted of murdering her daughter.
Baez said in court on Aug. 8 that he’d be filing a bail motion, so Judge Herriford scheduled a hearing for Aug. 15. The hearing was cancelled after no motion was filed.
In what amounts to dull online drama, Baez posted photos from Italy on his law firm’s Instagram page last week, which led to me remarking on X, formerly known as Twitter, that he did not appear to prioritizing Lanez’s motion for bail.
Baez then criticized me personally in his Instagram stories while not confirming or denying he was in Italy and somewhat walking back his previous assurances that a motion for bail was imminent. He focused on Lanez’s appeal then wrote, “As for other motions Tory is evaluating ALL of his options.”
“This blogger has had a clear bias against Tory and has attacked everyone associated with him as well as made numerous inaccurate assumptions,” Baez wrote. “In fairness to her, she has no legal training and has never worked in the court system, so her opinions have little to no merit whatsoever.”
I’ll be live on YouTube at 10:30 a.m. today to discuss Lanez’s motion and answer questions in the chat. Los Angeles criminal defense attorney Louis Shapiro will be joining me at 11 a.m. to offer his analysis. If you can’t listen or watch live, you can tune in later.I’ll be live on YouTube at 10:30 a.m. today to discuss Lanez’s motion and answer questions in the chat. Los Angeles criminal defense attorney Louis Shapiro will be joining me at 11 a.m. to offer his analysis. If you can’t listen or watch live, you can tune in later.
As of early Friday morning, Judge Herriford is scheduled to consider the motion at 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday at the criminal courthouse in downtown Los Angeles. I’ll be there. I’ll also publish an article next week with the final transcript of the two-day sentencing, which people donated money online for me to buy. If you would like to donate to support my work generally, you can do so through Venmo (MeghannCuniff), CashApp ($MeghannCuniff), PayPal or Zelle (firstname.lastname@example.org). Your support makes my independent journalism possible. Thank you!
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