In a deal, James Howard Jackson pleaded guilty to one count of attempted murder after he was accidentally released from custody
The man who shot Lady Gaga’s dog walker and stole her French bulldogs in Los Angeles last year has been sentenced to 21 years in prison for the high-profile robbery that saw the star offer a $500,000 reward for the return of her pets.
James Howard Jackson, one of three men and two accomplices who participated in the violent robbery of dog walker Ryan Fischer, pleaded no contest to one count of attempted murder, the Los Angeles county district attorney’s office said on Monday.
The agreement came months after US marshals launched a hunt for Jackson, who was mistakenly released from custody in April due to a clerical error.
“The plea agreement holds Mr Jackson accountable for perpetrating a cold-hearted violent act and provides justice for our victim,” the DA’s office said in a statement.
Fischer was seriously wounded in the attack and addressed the court on Monday to give an impact statement, which he posted on Instagram.
“It’s hard to believe that it’s nearing two years since I was taking Asia, Koji and Gustav out for an evening stroll when in an instant I suddenly found myself fighting with everything I had to protect those dogs from being stolen. But it wasn’t enough: I was beaten, strangled, shot and left to die, bleeding out on a sidewalk and gasping for my life. And Koji and Gustav were gone.”
Authorities have said that on 24 February 2021, Jackson, Jaylin White, 19, and Lafayette Whaley, 27, drove around Los Angeles “looking for French bulldogs”, an expensive breed that can sell for thousands of dollars. They came across Fischer with the pop star’s three dogs near Sunset Boulevard – detectives believe the group didn’t know the pets belonged to Lady Gaga.
The men rushed Fischer, yelling for him to “Give it up” as they grabbed at the animals’ leashes, he told Rolling Stone. The dog walker was swinging at them with a champagne bottle he was holding and still gripping two of the leashes when one of the men began choking him.
It was during the struggle that officials say Jackson shot him with a semi-automatic handgun, allowing the trio to take off with two of the dogs, Koji and Gustav, while a third, Miss Asia, stayed hidden under nearby bushes as Fischer had told her to. Fischer was left bleeding on the pavement weighing the best way to get the dogs back.
“I was bleeding out and that was the thought that was going through my head,” he told the magazine. “What’s the best way to do this so the dogs can be found?”
Fischer could be heard on a recording from a nearby doorbell camera screaming “Oh, my God! I’ve been shot!” and “Help me!” and “I’m bleeding out from my chest!”
The dog walker could be seen cradling one of the dogs as he received treatment on the pavement for his injuries after the robbery. Fischer has called the attack a “very close call with death”. The bullet pierced his lung, which later collapsed several times and required doctors to remove more than a third of the organ, Rolling Stone reported. He was also left with several broken ribs and cuts on his arms and legs.
After the robbery, Lady Gaga offered a “$500,000 [£353,000] to anyone who has her two dogs, no questions asked”. The dogs were returned several days later by a woman who was also charged in the crime.
Two months after the attack, five people were arrested in connection with the incident, including Jackson, whom authorities later inadvertently released.
Jackson also admitted to inflicting great bodily injury and to a prior strike, the DA’s office said on Monday. He was sentenced to 21 years in prison.
Lady Gaga’s representatives did not immediately return a request for comment.