People wonder why RPV kid 'chose to be a gang member'
Killing turns a limitless horizon to a life of restrictions.
By Denise Nix
Photographs of Phillip Dorsett, his friends and younger brother flashing gang signs were set in matting and framed.
They were displayed on his bedroom desk inside his parents' million-dollar Rancho Palos Verdes home, which sits atop a hill and offers ocean views.
Dorsett, 21, seemingly, could have had anything or done anything.
Instead, he's spending 40 years to life in prison for a gang-related murder.
"Nobody knew how a kid from Rancho Palos Verdes ends up down in Inglewood, in the heart of the ghetto," said Mike Valento, a sheriff's homicide detective.
"No one really has the answer, and Phillip never told us," he said.
Dorsett, who graduated from Palos Verdes Peninsula High School in 2004, became involved with an Inglewood-based Latino gang in his early teens, Valento said.
He may have been introduced to the group through a friend who lived in his neighborhood.
Dorsett's brother, Jaret Dorsett, joined the same gang and is wanted on suspicion of a 2003 gang-related killing in Inglewood, Valento added.
Valento believes the younger Dorsett is in Mexico - which is where his older brother fled after he killed 18-year-old Jesse Fujino on June 17, 2005.
It's a strange twist for the sons of a car dealership manager father, who is white, and an attorney mother, who is Asian.
Their mother, Dana Dorsett, who argued to a Torrance Superior Court judge for a new trial and a reduced sentence on behalf of her eldest son on Oct. 26, declined to comment about her son.
Dorsett's trial attorney, Edi Faal, did not return a telephone message.
The night of the shooting, Dorsett and his friends were visiting a friend in the 1000 block of 95th Street, near Vermont Avenue.
Around 9 p.m., they were hanging out with some teenage girls in Dorsett's minivan, drinking and talking, when three men from two different gangs pulled up behind them, according to Valento.
One of the men urinated on the back of the van, and words were exchanged.
The men walked past Dorsett and his friends to a nearby apartment, but then returned. When they did, Fujino broke off from the group and continued the confrontation with Dorsett and his friends.
In a typical precursor to gang violence, Fujino asked Dorsett's group where they were from.
The argument escalated, and Dorsett grabbed a handgun from the back of the minivan and pointed it at Fujino.
Fujino dared Dorsett to shoot him, and he did.
"Phillip was called out on the carpet," said Valento, the homicide detective. "He was trying to act bad in front of these girls, and now a rival gang member is challenging him to shoot, so he pulled the trigger."
Fujino was shot in the temple. During Dorsett's trial in Torrance Superior Court, that the gun was less than two feet from Fujino when it was fired.
There was no evidence Fujino was armed. He died the next morning.
However, Dorsett testified that he shot Fujino in self-defense after the group of gang members boxed him in and Fujino fired once or twice at him, and missed.
After the shooting, everyone ran, except Dorsett, who drove away in the minivan. Nobody cooperated with the initial investigation, which is not unusual in a gang-related crime where witnesses who snitch are often retaliated against, Valento said.
Eventually, though, one of the girls identified Dorsett, who goes by the moniker "Chino," to detectives.
By then, though, Dorsett had fled to Mexico, according to evidence later collected from his house.
With Dorsett gone, the investigation stalled. Until, on a chance, Valento spotted the minivan a few weeks later back in the driveway of the Dorsett home in the 4000 block of Exultant Drive.
Dorsett wasn't arrested until Sept. 9, 2005, when he was pulled over by a Hawthorne police officer. Several days later, detectives searched his home.
In his room, they found the photographs of the gang members and notebooks filled with gang writings, Valento said.
They also found Dorsett's passport; paperwork for car insurance bought in Mexico on June 21, 2005, for the minivan; and a plane ticket for the same day in Dorsett's name from Tijuana to Puerto Vallarta, Valento added.
experts testified Young girls threatened
Meanwhile, sometime after murder charges were filed against Dorsett, two girls who were in the van and witnessed the shooting were threatened by members of Dorsett's gang.
The girls, both in their early teens, were lured to a motel room in Lawndale.Inside the room, gang member Steve Uitz, 28, was waiting with a blow torch and a hot iron, according to Valento.
Uitz told the girls that he was going to get the witness list from Dorsett's father and, if their names were on it, they would be killed, the girls testified during Dorsett's trial.
Valento and Deputy District Attorney Cindy Barnes said the prosecution was scheduled to turn over evidence, including the witness list, to the defense at an upcoming hearing.
Barnes said that, although the inference to Jeffrey Dorsett is logical, there is no evidence he was behind the threats.
"That is what the girls were told, and the information they were told was correct," Barnes said.
The girls, who were hit in the motel room, were let go after about an hour. Uitz was later arrested and charged as a co-defendant in Dorsett's case, court records show.
In September, he pleaded no contest to several charges, including a count of dissuading a witness by force or threat, and was sentenced to more than 16 years and eight months in prison, according to Barnes.
The two girls were placed in protective custody, and testified against Dorsett during his trial, which ended with his conviction July 11.
Last month, Dorsett's mother and defense attorney argued that prosecutorial and judicial misconduct were grounds for a new trial.
Faal argued it was wrong to show the jury evidence that Dorsett was still in a gang. The jury saw a photograph of Dorsett and a group of men who were making gang signs and a jail booking sheet on which Dorsett wrote his gang affiliation.
Faal said the prosecutor wanted that evidence presented to bias the jury.
He noted that Dorsett, who has grown his hair past his collar, had become a licensed security guard and was working as a laborer in Riverside, where he was living with another family.
Dorsett's mother argued it was wrong for Judge Mark Arnold to keep out evidence that the people with Fujino the night he was shot were gang members.
Had the jury known, she said, then they would have understood the fear her son felt when he fired the gun.
But Arnold sided with Barnes, who said their affiliations were irrelevant because the only thing that mattered was what the defendant thought.
Victim's sisters speak
After Arnold denied the new trial motions, one of the murder victim's two sisters, Rena Fujino, spoke in court.
"My mom is grateful. Thank God they found him," she said through tears. "He doesn't deserve to be on the streets."
She said all her brother's accomplishments, including a high school diploma, were to make their mother happy.
"No money in the world was going to be able to let him be free," she said of Dorsett. "What we're feeling, one day his mother and father will feel.
(My brother) was a great, great man, and he was gonna be somebody in life, but you took that away from us. We are never gonna forgive you. Ever. Ever."
Although his attorney held him back and told him to be quiet, Dorsett became agitated and asked to speak.
As bailiffs moved closer, including one with a stun gun, Dorsett yelled: "I am not a coward! I did not kill an unarmed man!"
In an interview later, Rena Fujino, 24, said her family didn't know until the trial began that her brother's killer was "a rich kid over here causing trouble."
"What was he thinking?" she wondered.
During the trial, she said, Dorsett's mother generally remained quiet, sitting with her head down. His father did most of the interacting with their son and his lawyer.
Barnes, who prosecutes gang cases from the Lennox area, said this is a unique situation. Most people join gangs out of necessity - because they live in a neighborhood and need protection, or they have family members who are in the gang, Barnes said.
"What he was doing, he had to seek it out," he said.
"He knew better. He had options, and he chose to be a gang member," Barnes said. "I don't know if he's a bad seed or watched too much MTV, but whatever it was, he made that choice."
Commentary from the public:
i blame the MTV and all the rappers on it always talking about guns and gangs
posted: Saturday, November 3rd at 13:36 PM
Many good comments. This story certainly challenges some of the current premises about youth gang activity and involvement. The parents (especially one with a legal background) should have been on top of this one much earlier. They obviously have the resources to seek assistance with an intervention. Hopefully, this wakes up the parents to the fact that they have two more kids "highly at-risk for juvenile delinquency and/or adult criminal activity" who have watched their brother go over to the "dark side".
posted: Saturday, November 3rd at 13:16 PM
"open your eyes"
This incident does not surprise me at all. People think because he is rich kid it is strange for him to join a gang. The parents make good money and have a big house but did they ever spend time with their kids. Were they to busy working most of the time that they forgot they had kids. May be they just wanted some attention.Parents need to open their eyes and look at what their kids are doing. Parents need to look at the warning signs and become involved in your childs life cause this could happen to anyone.
posted: Saturday, November 3rd at 12:51 PM
"ha! such a sad story"
i've got a sadder one. it's titled "how a wealthy scion of a politically connected oil family used his father's name and status to bankrupt america."
posted: Saturday, November 3rd at 12:32 PM
I have NO sympathy for any of these "gang" people. They are all a bunch of loser punks. It is foolish to think any of them as being "a great, great man, and he was gonna be somebody in life." I am sorry Ms. Fujino but your brother had become all he was ever going to be.... a street gang punk. The family members, rich or poor,of these people need to wake up. Yes, they should mourn the death of their loved ones but they should not build them up in their minds to be something they were not. After all, if they live by the sword, they will die by the sword.
posted: Saturday, November 3rd at 12:32 PM
"C-ya . . ."
This is a perfect example of how kids make choices. Too much has been made of a neighborhood turning a kid bad; kids turn themselves bad. The parents did enable Dorsett, however, ultimately, he wanted to be a thug. Well, he got his wish and now he gets to enjoy the life of one . . . in prison. Good riddance.
posted: Saturday, November 3rd at 11:15 AM
Mom no career is worth being away from your children,they need us every second of the day to guide them,to educate them,to love them,to listen to them.I could go on and on and on.Moms everywhere our children need us!!!!!I'm a stay at home mom.......
- Stay At Home Mom
posted: Saturday, November 3rd at 11:14 AM
"GANGS IN PRV"
That just goes to show that gangs are everywhere, RPV has projects in their city so just because you live there does not mean you have money as people think. My husband is a Torrance Police and he has stories about PV. PVE,TORRANCE that can be pretty horrifying, and he said " that alot of the parents that he has met are not gang material" so we cannot always blame the parents they just need to fight harder to save their children from that life style. never the less it's sad to see kids in gangs thinking that life is better, when some of them have it great at home with their own family.
posted: Saturday, November 3rd at 10:48 AM
"A sad case"
For whatever reason, he made the choice to become a gang member. Maybe he did watch to much "MTV" or movies which tend to glorify this kind of lifestyle. He did the crime, now he has to do the time. As for the parents, they missed the warning signs now one son is in prison and another is wanted for murder. Parents today have to be aware of what their kids are doing.
posted: Saturday, November 3rd at 10:28 AM
"Same old story"
Where were the parents? They let him make bad decisions.
- The Enforcer
posted: Saturday, November 3rd at 10:23 AM
"Bored to Death"
Let's face it. The kid was looking for some excitement. Unless you are in to sports or some other organized activity, there isn't much for teens to do on the Hill. They seek out diversions, excitement. There are a fair number of high school aged girls who travel off the hill to find bad boys to hang with. We've boxed these kids in with cement, give them no attention and expect them to be able to "find" themselves in a healthy way? Nice parenting by the way. Ever bother to look in your kid's room? They don't get the right to privacy until they move out on their own.
- Civic Minded
posted: Saturday, November 3rd at 10:21 AM
"What a shame..."
Many good points have already been stated. It's a combination of too much glorified violence on TV & video games and parents too busy to really know what their kids are doing or hanging out with. Parents out there- talk to your kids, hug them, say "no" once in a while, tell them that they can always come to you when they have something on their mind and be there for them the day they decide to open up to you. In the end a kid needs love and guidance to make the right decisions.
- MLD~ Wilmington
posted: Saturday, November 3rd at 9:59 AM
"The MTV Generation"
Glorification of gangsters on TV, in the media, and steady practice of raising children by part-time workers, and we a "wondering" how this kid got messed up? Give me a break. When you hear Mira Costa brats arguing about being "ghetto enough", there is only one logical conclusion. Just look at the kids. Try to talk to them, if you can find one who speaks something close to standard English. Don't ask them any questions about History, Philosophy or anything other than "Global Warming" or why teachers need bigger raises. Children, the ultimate fashion accessory. Si o No?
- Gene H. Dreher
posted: Saturday, November 3rd at 9:37 AM
These parents sound like they need to be held accountable as well. What is wrong with them. The signs and clues were all over there room. The boy that was killed was exactly a innocent victim as well, however no one deserves to die.
posted: Saturday, November 3rd at 9:15 AM
"He played with fire..."
....and got burned. Sorry, I don't have any pity for him. It's bad enough that we have locals joining gangs. We don't need any rich poseur's coming down from the hill and joining up. I hope he gets locked up for the rest of his life. And, I think the parent's need to look at themselves and figure out where they went wrong with their kids.
posted: Saturday, November 3rd at 8:53 AM
"white, mexican, or black. . ."
all gang members need to be executed. as soon as he was found guilty, he should have been lead into another room and gotten an AK-47 bullet to the head. you can save a lot of tax dollars if their lives are just ended
posted: Saturday, November 3rd at 7:58 AM
are to blame..wonder where they thought he was when he was hanging out in Inglewood? Did they bring this kid up with video games? Clearly the kid thought it would be cool to be in a gang...huge mistake.
posted: Saturday, November 3rd at 7:24 AM
Two brothers going or gone bad? It's got to be the parenting, or lack of it. We all know the scenario: both parents with jobs. Likely, too busy to pay any attention to what their teens were doing. What a waste.
posted: Saturday, November 3rd at 6:21 AM
So, you want pity for this kid. I am sorry if you want to be tuff gangmember with a gun an create havoc on our society then go to jail. Lets see how strong you are when bubba behind you and his friends or fighting for your life everyday? See you buddy in the big house soon!