California Killer Videoed Toasting DA Directive on Early Release for Prisoners

March 12, 2021 Updated: March 12, 2021

Phillip Dorsett, a convicted California killer, was caught on video toasting a directive from Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascón in his cell, celebrating his possible early release.

Gascón called for possible resentencing of prisoners who have already served 15 years in prison.

Dorsett was sentenced to 40 years to life for killing a rival gang member in 2005. He was convicted of second-degree murder.

While holding a cup of prison alcohol, or “white lightning,” in New Folsom State Prison, Dorsett says in the video: “Right here with my cellie, some white lightning, a little cup, boom! Celebrating us going home on this Gascón directive. Whoop!”

The video was released on Tuesday with an open letter (pdf) from the California District Attorneys Association (CDAA), which called on Gascón to “abandon his reckless policies that put violent criminals like Dorsett back on the streets.”

Gascón released the directive on the same day he was sworn in on Dec. 7, 2020, saying in the order: “The vast majority of incarcerated people are members of groups long 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.”

In the open letter, CDAA CEO Greg Totten said that “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.”

“No one is celebrating George Gascón more than violent criminals,” Totten added.

Los Angeles County DA office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

President of the CDAA Vern Pierson said criminals had already benefited from Gascón’s other directive to eliminate a sentencing enhancement for the use of a gun during felonies, which can add 10 to 20 extra years to a prison 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 said, the Los Angeles Daily News reported. “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.”

According to the LA Daily News, violent crime has surged in Los Angeles. There were 349 homicides in 2020, about 100 more than in 2019, the highest in recent years, but still lower than it was in the 1990s when murders reached 1,000. The Los Angeles Police Department said last week that 18 people had been shot during robberies 2021, compared to one at the same time in 2020.