A grand jury declined on Thursday to criminally indict rapper Travis Scott and five others in the 2021 Astroworld concert deaths, capping a nearly two-year police investigation into the deaths and ending with a promise by police officials that they’ll go public with their findings.
For months, Scott’s lawyer maintained that he never believed that the rapper was criminally liable for a concert that left 10 people dead and dozens more injured.
After the grand jury’s decision, Houston Police Chief Troy Finner would not elaborate on what the department thinks went wrong during the Astroworld disaster, but said a nearly 1,200 page offense report would be made public after a redaction process and it would speak for itself.
“I want everyone to dig in — it’s a big book,” Finner said at a news conference. He did not say when the report would be published.
He was joined by District Attorney Kim Ogg, whose prosecutors spent months picking apart the legal code to determine what charges, if any, could be sought against Scott and those involved in planning and providing security for the concert. Their options were ultimately limited, with endangering a child as their last option to seek if the grand jurors didn’t agree on manslaughter or criminally negligent homicide.
Two of the concertgoers killed were under 14.
The grand jury, after hearing testimony and reviewing evidence from the police investigators, ultimately decided not to indict Scott. The jurors also decided not to charge Brent Silberstein, the festival manager and four others with Live Nation and Scoremore, which put on the event.
Prosecutors and Houston police detectives involved in the investigation into the deadly concert were seen coming and going from a room dedicated to grand jury proceedings in the morning. Scott’s lawyer, Kent Schaffer, and a defense attorney for Silberstein periodically stopped by the third floor in the criminal courthouse to check on the grand jury’s progress. The jury made its decision around 2 p.m., lawyers said.
After the grand jury concluded, Schaffer spoke at length about Scott’s cooperation with the police department after the Nov. 5, 2021, concert. Police interviewed Scott for more than two hours at his own home, he said. Information from that interview was not shared with the grand jury, Schaffer said.
Instead Schaffer included in a defense packet for grand jurors information about how little Scott could see from the stage as he performed. He did not see the distressed crowd or those struggling to flee, so he didn’t know from his own vantage point that there was reason to bring the concert to an abrupt end. The stage lights had effectively blinded him, Schaffer said.
“No matter where he was on the stage, lights were coming straight at him,” Schaffer said. “When you’re up on a lit stage like that, and the crowd is dark, you can’t see what’s going on.”
See here for previous AstroWorld blogging. I covered the many (and high-dollar) civil suits that were filed, but it doesn’t look like I paid much attention to the grand jury. For what it’s worth, based on my high school and college experience playing in symphonic and jazz bands, Attorney Schaffer is quite right about the view from a lighted stage. Pretty much everything beyond the front row or so of the audience is just darkness. I couldn’t pick out my own parents in the high school auditorium. To that extent, I find Travis Scott’s defense credible. I also think the civil justice system might be the better venue for redress. It’s what we’ve got in any event, given this development. Of greater immediate interest are the proposed safety reforms, which I hope will reduce the likelihood of a repeat. Not learning from this and doing better going forward would be an even bigger tragedy. Houston Landing and the Trib have more.