The man who shot and wounded Lady Gaga's dog walker and stole her French bulldogs last year took a plea deal and was sentenced to 21 years in prison, officials said. The Lady Gaga connection was a coincidence, authorities have said. The motive was the value of the French bulldogs, a breed that can run into thousands of dollars, and detectives do not believe the thieves knew the dogs belonged to the musician.
James Howard Jackson, one of three men and two accomplices who participated in the violent robbery and its aftermath, pleaded no contest to one count of attempted murder, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office. It was not immediately clear which attorney represented Howard on Monday.
Jackson and two others drove around Hollywood, the city of West Hollywood and the San Fernando Valley on Feb 24, 2021 “looking for French bulldogs,” prosecutors said previously. They found Lady Gaga's dog walker, Ryan Fischer, with the pop star's three pets.
Jackson shot Fischer during the robbery near the famed Sunset Boulevard, during which two of the dogs were taken. A nearby doorbell camera recorded the dog walker screaming “Oh, my God! I've been shot!” and “Help me!” and “I'm bleeding out from my chest!” Fischer later called the violence a “very close call with death” in social media posts.
The dogs, named Koji and Gustav, were returned several days later by Jennifer McBride, who was also charged in the crime. The pop star had offered a USD 500,000 reward — “no questions asked” — to be reunited with the dogs at the time.
Jackson also admitted the allegation of inflicting great bodily injury and to a prior strike, the DA's office said Monday. The prosecutor's office did not immediately say what the prior strike was.
“The plea agreement holds Mr Jackson accountable for perpetrating a coldhearted violent act and provides justice for our victim,” the office said in a statement. Howard had been charged with attempted murder, conspiracy to commit a robbery and assault with a semiautomatic firearm.
Jackson was mistakenly released from jail earlier this year due to a clerical error. He was recaptured nearly five months later.
Another accomplice, Harold White, pleaded no contest Monday to a count of ex-convict in possession of a gun. White, who was in a relationship with McBride at the time, will be sentenced next year. McBride's case is ongoing.
The couple had allegedly tried to help White's son, Jaylin White, avoid arrest in the aftermath of the shooting.
Jaylin White and Lafayette Whaley earlier this year pleaded no contest to robbery.
Whaley drove Jackson and the younger White around last year as they searched for the pricy dogs. Jackson and White jumped out and attacked Fischer, prosecutors said previously. They hit and choked the dog walker, and Jackson pulled out a semiautomatic gun and fired, striking Fischer once before the trio fled. Lady Gaga's representatives and Fischer did not immediately respond to requests for comment.