A jury found that 17-year-old Sincere D. Dorsey committed aggravated assault when he used a stolen Glock handgun to shoot his 15-year-old ex-girlfriend nine times as she hid under her bed at her Erie residence in March 2022.
At Dorsey’s sentencing, the prosecutor emphasized that the shooting also represented domestic abuse, with the violence erupting even before Dorsey reached adulthood. Dorsey was upset at his girlfriend because she had just broken up with him, according to trial testimony.
“Sincere Dorsey is a domestic abuser,” Jeremy Lightner, a deputy district attorney for Erie County, said in court. “He is such a domestic abuser that he commits the acts as a child.”
The domestic abuse and what Lightner called the “horrific and nightmarish” violence has put Dorsey, now 19, in state prison for the next 10 to 20 years.
The sentence, which Erie County Judge John J. Mead issued on Wednesday, is in the standard range of the state sentencing guidelines for Dorsey’s six crimes.
He was convicted in June of two counts of aggravated assault as a first-degree felony — one count for inflicting serious bodily injury and the other for an assault using a deadly weapon — as well as one count each of burglary as a first-degree felony, the first-degree misdemeanors of possession of a weapon by a minor and possession of a weapon and the second-degree misdemeanor of tampering with evidence.
Dorsey was acquitted of the first-degree felony of attempted homicide, the lead charge against him, though Lightner presented undisputed evidence that the victim was shot nine times, including in the legs and abdomen.
The bullets broke both her femurs and tore apart her small intestine and ruptured her colon, according to testimony. She had surgery and has recovered, though she can no longer run, Lightner said on Wednesday. The victim was in court but did not address the judge.
Lightner argued at trial that Dorsey clearly tried to kill the victim. Lightner speculated in court on Wednesday that Dorsey’s acquittal on the charge of attempted homicide might have been due to the jury thinking that the victim’s life was not at risk because she was able to get under the bed to protect herself.
Dorsey, Lightner said, “filled her with bullets.”
Request for aggravated-range sentence rejected
Lightner cited the level of violence in asking that Mead sentence Dorsey in the aggravated range of the state sentencing guidelines. A sentence in that range would have been higher then the sentence of 10 to 20 years that Mead imposed in the standard range, which accounts for a defendant’s prior record and other factors. Dorsey faced a maximum possible sentence of 10 to 20 years each on the aggravated assault and burglary counts alone.
The sentence he got on Wednesday makes Dorsey eligible for parole after he serves 10 years. He will get credit for the year and a half he spent in prison after his arrest, when he was held on a $250,000 bond.
In asking for a sentence in the aggravated range. Lightner referred to what he said was Dorsey’s lack of an acceptance of responsibility for the shooting. Dorsey did not testify at trial, but his defense was based on an argument that the prosecution had not presented enough evidence to identify him as the shooter.
The evidence shattered that defense. The victim repeatedly identified Dorsey as the shooter; text messages between Dorsey and the victim showed that he was upset with her over the breakup; and Erie police arrested Dorsey after chasing him in the snow after he fled from the victim’s residence in the 2000 block of Prospect Avenue at about 2:50 a.m. on March 12, 2022.
Police discovered the Glock 9 mm used in the shooting in the snow not far from where Dorsey was arrested. It was reported stolen in 2021. Police sent the gun out for DNA testing and came up with match to Dorsey’s DNA, according to testimony.
Erie police charged him as an adult due to the violent nature of the offense. His arrest marked another case of violent juvenile crime in Erie that occurred during or after the pandemic. Dorsey had a juvenile record for other offenses, according to testimony on Wednesday.
Despite all the evidence against him, Dorsey still benefited by going to trial instead of pleading guilty. About a week before his trial, he rejected a plea deal in which the prosecution would have recommended a sentence of 13½ to 30 years — a total of 3½ to 10 years more that he received on Wednesday in a sentence that reflected his acquittal on the attempted homicide charge.
Trying to make sense of an ‘incomprehensible tragedy’
Dorsey apologized in court on Wednesday after his lawyer, Gene Placidi, asked Mead to impose a sentence in the standard range. As he stood before the judge, Dorsey did not deny that he shot his ex-girlfriend after breaking into her house wearing a mask, charging up the stairs, barging into her bedroom and opening fire.
“Have mercy on me,” Dorsey told Mead. “I am truly sorry for what I have done to the victim.”
Placidi called the shooting “an incomprehensible tragedy.” Mead said the crime, “to put it lightly, is very disturbing.”
Dorsey’s mother, Latisa Mims, said: “My son has never been a violent person. It is hard for me to understand the situation.”
Lightner gave an explanation for the violence — that it stemmed from a person prone to domestic violence at a young age. Dorsey broke into a house and used a gun to deal with teenage relationship issues, he said.
“It’s hard to come up with a more sacred space — or a place that should be more protected — than a child’s bedroom,” Lightner said.
The victim’s aunt, in addressing Mead, said Dorsey made the wrong decisions with “a hurt and angry heart” and failed to realize that “you can’t make another person love you, like you or want to be around you.”
That type of behavior — Dorsey’s inclination toward domestic abuse — makes him a long-term threat to the community, Lightner said. He asked for a lengthy period of parole or probation to go along with a lengthy prison term.
“There are other women in the community,” Lightner said. “In the future, when Sincere Dorsey is back in the community, they will be at risk.”
As for the victim whom Dorsey shot nine times, Lightner said: “She found a way to survive. She found a way to live.”
Contact Ed Palattella at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on X @ETNpalattella.
This article originally appeared on Erie Times-News: Erie teen sentenced for shooting ex-girlfriend as she hid under bed