In his cell, convicted killer celebrates early release, toasts to new L.A. DA Gascón’s re-sentencing directive

A convicted killer was seen in a video clip released by the California District Attorneys Association (CDAA) toasting a new directive from Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascón calling for potentially resentencing some inmates after they’ve served 15 years behind bars.

The inmate, Phillip Dorsett, and his cellmate, who are housed at the New Folsom State Prison, are toasting in the clip with a prison moonshine drink called “white lightning.”

“Right here with my cellie,” Dorsett said in the clip released by the CDAA on Tuesday. “Some white lightning, a little cup, boom! Celebrating us going home on this Gascón directive. Whoop!”

The Orange County Register reported that the video was taken on a “contraband cellphone” inmates are not allowed to have, and then smuggled out of the prison. It’s not clear how the CDAA came into possession of it.

Gascón’s directive, issued in early December, cites earlier “outdated policies” that unfairly targeted “disadvantaged under earlier systems of justice: Black people, people of color, young people, people who suffer from mental illness, and people who are poor.”

“While resentencing alone cannot correct all inequities inherent in our system of justice, it should at least be consistent with policies designed to remedy those inequities,” the directive states, noting that it took effect immediately upon being issued and will apply to “every aspect of existing sentencing or resentencing policy.”

The directive also instructs county assistant DAs from “using dehumanizing language such as ‘inmate,’ ‘prisoner,’ ‘criminal,’ or ‘offender’ when referencing incarcerated people.”

As for Dorsett, he was sentenced to 40 years to life in 2005 for shooting a rival gang member in the head at close range, Fox News reported. 

Meanwhile, the CDAA implored Gascón to “abandon his reckless policies that put violent criminals like Dorsett back on the streets.”

“Recent footage of convicted murderer Phillip Dorsett celebrating George Gascón is compelling proof that violent criminals, not victims, will be the biggest beneficiaries of his radical policies,” CDAA chief executive officer Greg Totten said in a statement. “No one is celebrating George Gascón more than violent criminals.”

The Register went on to report that as inmates anticipate early releases under Gascón’s resentencing directive, criminals on the streets are becoming more empowered under another directive that removes a sentencing enhancement for the use of a gun during the commission of a crime. Vern Pierson, president of the CDAA, said the enhancement can add as much as one to two decades of prison time to a sentence.

“When criminals talk among themselves and share information that firearm enhancements are not going to be used, it’s no longer a deterrent,” Pierson, who is the district attorney for Eldorado County, told The Register. 

“People are increasingly using guns in the commission of violent crime. Gascón’s policies are reckless and dangerous to people of Los Angeles County and the people of California in a broader sense,” he added.

Gascón’s left-wing criminal justice reform policies appear to be having the same effect in L.A. County and Los Angeles proper as similar policies adopted by like-minded DA’s in other large cities, which is a spike in crime.

“Los Angeles, mirroring a trend in large cities nationwide, has experienced a surge in violent crime,” The Register reported, noting that there were 349 homicides in 2020, or about 100 more than in 2019 “and easily the worst figure in years.”

LAPD officials added that thus far in 2021, 18 people have been shot during robberies compared to just one person over the same period the previous year.

Criminals are also becoming bolder in that they are targeting businesses in areas that are not known to be crime hotspots, the paper added.

“Some credible studies suggest longer sentences, like gun enhancements, deter crime,” Eric Siddall, vice president of the Association of Deputy District Attorneys, told The Register. “It follows that shorter sentences may invite it. 

“Mr. Gascón’s refusal to enforce California’s strict gun laws may be an explanation as to why we are seeing a sudden spike in shootings. Likewise, state prisoners, like the one in this video, are also seeing a potential windfall in Mr. Gascón’s policies,” he added.

Last month, L.A. Superior Court Judge James C. Chalfant ruled largely in favor of the Association of Deputy District Attorneys after the organization sued Gascón over his new reform policies.

Chalfant said that the L.A. County DA cannot order his prosecutors to ignore laws that were passed to protect the public, including sentencing enhancements and the so-called ‘three strikes’ provision.

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Jon Dougherty

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