INSIDE THE COURTROOM: Deputy DA David Tulcan Recounts Gang Case
PICTURED ABOVE: Defendant Anthony Phillips along with crime scene photos.
Anthony Phillips (AKA “Ant”) is a member of the DHB (Delmann Heights Bloods) who shot and killed victim Maurice Major O’Neal in May 2012. Phillips maintained his innocence throughout the trial arguing that the victim—AKA “West,” who was a member of West Covina Neighborhood Crips—pulled a gun on him and shot eight times, so he defended himself by returning fire nine times, striking the victim three times in the upper chest.
Although there were numerous unexplained bullet holes at the scene and the victim had GSR on his hands, no gun was ever found with the victim. The only thing that was found on the victim was seventeen individually-wrapped rocks of cocaine. Although Phillips claimed justifiable self-defense, he ran from the scene, hid the gun and then lied to the police about even being there.
Despite the fact that this incident took place in front of a crowd of people, the victim’s girlfriend was the “only” eyewitness to the shooting. She testified that she went to the scene of the crime to get her boyfriend (victim) to leave because it was a dangerous area. When she arrived she saw O’Neal speaking with some other girls. When she questioned victim about his trifling ways he punched her once in the mouth which angered her. She immediately called 911 and told dispatch that O’Neal had just punched her in the mouth and that he had a gun and crack cocaine on him. Shortly after the call, the shooting occurred.
On October 15, in San Bernardino Superior Court, Phillips was convicted of Second Degree Murder and Gun Use Causing Death. He was sentenced 40 years to life in state prison. He will be 66 before he is eligible for parole.
Anthony Phillips is one of those gangsters who has slipped in and out of the criminal justice system without suffering serious conviction and punishment for most of his life. Like the criminal veteran he is, he pressed our office to take this case out to trial quickly, never having once waived time. Of the defendants that I have prosecuted, Mr. Phillips struck me as one of the most dangerous. He is cold, fairly intelligent and extremely manipulative.
In my opinion, it was that intelligence which allowed him to lure the victim close to him, letting down his guard, before he murdered him. I don’t often give second thoughts to the defendants who I have sent away to prison for life, but Mr. Phillips stands out. I have no doubt San Bernardino is a better place without this man walking its streets.
Gang cases are difficult on the one hand because you are dealing with individuals who are extremely reluctant to testify for fear of retaliation. They are also difficult, on the other hand, because you have victims and witnesses who come into court with criminal histories of their own. It’s not easy to get jurors to care about a victim, as in this case, who was himself a felon, a gang-banger, a spousal abuser, a drug dealer and likely carrying a gun before he was shot and killed. Having said that, it’s that much more rewarding when, despite all those difficulties, we deservedly convict the other gang member who murdered a man, criminal or not, in cold blood.