Criminal Charges Possible After Astroworld Festival Investigation

November 5, 2021, was the first day of a week-long music festival, Astroworld Festival, in Houston, Texas. The Astroworld Festival was launched in 2018 by Houston native and rapper Travis Scott to celebrate the city of Houston.

But what was supposed to be a week of music performances turned to tragedy on opening night.

Now, Scott and other promoters of the event could face manslaughter charges.

What happened at Astroworld 2021?

As most concerts do, the Astroworld Festival kicked off with several opening acts. Scott, who was the show’s headliner, took the stage around 9 p.m. After Scott took the stage, the standing-room-only crowd of nearly 50,000 spectators began to surge the stage from all sides.

According to Samuel Peña, the fire chief, those in the front-middle section found it hard to breathe during the surge. Additionally, the spectators in the middle of the scrum began to pass out.

It took emergency personnel nearly 30 minutes to penetrate the crowd and reach those who were in distress. There were at least 10 cardiac arrests reported within the crowd. Additionally, there were nearly 300 other injuries.

Officials weren’t able to shut down the show immediately. The show ended at 10:10 p.m., which was an hour after Scott’s performance began and half an hour after police declared the event a mass-casualty event. Troy Finner, Houston’s police chief, stated that the concert wasn’t halted sooner because they were concerned that stopping the performance could whip the young crowd into further animosity and violence.

Who is at risk of being charged?

The investigation into the event is still ongoing, with the Houston police, the FBI and other law enforcement agencies all looking into the event. Additionally, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo also stated that she is examining the possibility of an “independent and objective” investigation into the events.

However, this type of investigation could prove complicated given the sheer number of individuals involved as well as the number of videos that were taken during the event that investigators will need to both find and examine.

Moreover, since Judge Hidalgo’s office isn’t law enforcement, she has no actual authority over any of the criminal investigations. Therefore, her biggest goal is simply to find out whether the events could have been prevented in any way to ensure that something similar doesn’t happen again.

While no criminal charges have yet been filed, there have been speculations that charges could be filed against Scott, Live Nation (the event promoter), Harris County Sports & Convention Corporation (the venue) and ScoreMore Shows (the Texas show promoter). There are, however, already nearly 250 civil lawsuits in the early stages against the aforementioned groups.

A legal expert for the LA Times suggests that while the party that is primarily at stake for being charged is the event promoter, Live Nation, Scott has quite a bit of accountability, too.

Houston’s Fire Chief, Samuel Peña, said in an interview for The New York Times and Newsweek that he feels Scott had the power to stop the show once the chaos began. He stated, “The one person who can really call for and get a tactical pause when something goes wrong is that performer. They have that bully pulpit and they have a responsibility,”.

If criminal charges are filed, they would likely be manslaughter charges, which is a second-degree felony under Texas law. The penalties associated with second-degree felonies include from 2 to 20 years in state prison and up to $10,000 in fines.

At this point in the investigation, the most significant piece of evidence authorities have discovered is that there were no plans or protocols for a crowd surge in the event operations plans for the Astroworld Festival.

If you or a loved one is facing a manslaughter charge or any other charges for violent crimes, reach out to experienced criminal defense attorney Matt Sharp at the Law Office of Matthew D. Sharp today for a free consultation of your case.