On Wednesday, policies put into effect late last year by Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon, known by many as the Gascon directive, drew renewed criticism following approval by criminals charged with murder who hope to have reduced sentences and possible release under his directive.
Under the Gascon Directive, many criminals, even those with murder convictions, can receive possible resentencing after serving 15 years in prison. While there were also exceptions for those with COVID-19 in the directive, prisoner resentencing and release was mainly focused around those serving 15 years or more, those who are 60 or older in age, and those who were 17 or younger at the time of their offense who were then tried a a adult.
In a video released by the California District Attorneys Association (CDAA), many convicted prisoners were being shown to celebrate their pending resentencings. Among those in favor of the Gascon directive was Phillip Dorsett, a man currently in jail for 40 years to life following a jury finding him guilty of second degree murder with a handgun against a rival gang member in 2005.
“Right here with my cellie,” said Dorsett in the video, holding a cup of moonshine. “Some white lightning, a little cup, boom! Celebrating us going home on this Gascon directive. Whoop!”
The celebration by convicted murders possibly getting out earlier or avoiding the majority of their respective sentences was immediately denounced by several groups on Wednesday, including the California District Attorney’s Association (CDAA), a statewide DA association representing thousands of DAs, city attorneys, and prosecutors.
The CDAA has been largely opposed to the Gascon Directive since it’s introduction, as well as several other measures put forward by Gascon. Amongst other actions by Gascon, the CDAA has said that they are opposed to his insistence that all crime enhancements during trials be removed, such as adding weapons charges to robberies that would add many more years of prison. His decisions to try and end cash bail and ordering prosecutors to not attend parole hearings have also drawn considerable ire from the CDAA. So much so that the CDAA joined with the LA Association of Deputy DAs in a lawsuit against Gascon earlier this year. Tuesday’s video was only the latest fallout to be traced back to Gascon’s extreme new directives.
“Recent footage of convicted murderer Phillip Dorsett celebrating George Gascon is compelling proof that violent criminals, not victims, will be the biggest beneficiaries of his radical policies,” said CDAA CEO Greg Totten in a press release. “No one is celebrating George Gascon more than violent criminals.”
The CDAA also noted that “under Gascon’s new policies, Dorsett is immediately eligible to be considered for release from prison. CDAA calls on Gascon to abandon his reckless policies that put violent criminals like Dorsett back on the streets.”
Public outrage against the Dorsett video
In a separate announcement, CDAA president Vern Pierson also pointed out how Gascon’s crime enhancements removal was dangerous to those in LA.
“When criminals talk among themselves and share information that firearm enhancements are not going to be used, it’s no longer a deterrent,” added Pierson “People are increasingly using guns in the commission of violent crime. Gascon’s policies are reckless and dangerous to people of Los Angeles County and the people of California in a broader sense.”
Public reaction to the video struck a similar nerve, with many victim groups calling out Gascon for allowing things like that to happen.
“It’s disgusting,” explained Bernice Okoye, who was shot nearly 20 years ago as a bystander during a gang-related shooting in Los Angeles. “They need to talk to the victims, to the families. Gascon has refused to do that. And he’s refusing to look at videos like this too, with criminals, criminals who murdered other human beings in cold blood, pretty much thanking him for making it possible.
“How can he call something like this right? Criminals saying he’s doing all right, with every other DA, cop, and victim or family of the victim screaming why? If you have a gun with you during a crime, you plan to use it. But here he is, comforting prisoners who murdered people. Toasting him with vodka.”
However, Gascon has received more opposition against him in recent weeks, including a recall petition against him being greenlit for signature gathering earlier this week.
“It’s a start,” added Okoye.
Gascon nor his office has commented on the video as of Wednesday.