North Shore Sun
More than two years after he was convicted of manslaughter, Miller Place resident John White was sent to prison Thursday morning for the fatal shooting of an unarmed Port Jefferson Station teenager.
In May, a Brooklyn Court of Appeals upheld Mr. White's 2007 conviction in the manslaughter death of Daniel Cicciaro, 17, during a confrontation in front of the White family home on Independence Way in August 2006.
He will serve two-to-four years in prison.
Assistant District Attorney Thomas Costello, who handled the appeal, said prosecutors were confident the conviction would be upheld.
“It was sort of an unusual length of time to wait for the appeal to be decided, but when you read the 14-page decision of the appellate division, you understand that they took a careful, very careful, look at this case,” Mr. Costello said. “The legal issues were pretty clear-cut so, we were confident that the case would be affirmed on appeal.”
Mr. Cicciaro had shown up at the house with three friends after a dispute with Mr. White's son, Aaron, at a party in Sound Beach. Throughout the trial, Mr. White's legal team maintained that he armed himself with a gun out of fear for the lives of his family members and that the gun went off accidentally during the confrontation. Prosecutors maintained Mr. White should have stayed inside his home and dialed police rather than taking the matter into his own hands.
And just last week, the state's highest court, the court of appeals, denied his request to hear the case again.
“John White certainly knew this day was coming,” said defense attorney Paul Gianelli of Hauppauge. “I think he was resigned to the fact that he had to go forward and serve his sentence. I think that it is not a happy day, but certainly with the time he had with the appeals process he was able to provide for his family.”
Mr. White was taken into custody after his conviction for about a week, but then freed on $200,000 bail. He has remained free for two years, two months and two days. Mr. Cicciaro's mother, Joanne Cicciaro, said that it has been trying for her while the case winds its way through the legal system.
“It will never be over,” Ms. Cicciaro said. “No amount of time that John White will spend in jail will ever bring back my son. I miss him very much.”
Why Governor Paterson Should Pardon John White
With the 2010 New York Gubernatorial Election approaching, a group of activists are petitioning Governor David Paterson to pardon the second-degree manslaughter conviction of Long Island resident John White.
Spearheaded by the United African Movement, the activists have launched an online petition at http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/pardonjohnwhite/ to be signed by concerned New Yorkers, to lobby the outgoing governor into pardoning Mr. White.
The John White Case stemmed from the events of the night of Aug. 9, 2006 . Mr. White’s son Aaron, then 19, awoke his father to tell him a chilling story: several white thugs, threatening violence, were coming to the White’s home, on Miller Place in Suffolk County, Long Island and they were not coming for tea.
In fact, the hooligans stated they intended to beat up Aaron, along with his father and to rape his mother. The incident precipitated from a bogus online posting purporting that Aaron planned to rape a white girl known by the gang.
Outside their home the lynch mob, and it leader, Daniel Cicciaro, 17, had assembled blocking off the street. They were busy revving their engines and flashing their lights in an intimidating manner. Mr. White told his wife to call 911, grabbed a handgun, and went to his driveway where he confronted a trespassing Cicciaro. Cicciaro, and his friends, started hurling racial invectives, including the N-Word. Cicciaro lunged for Mr. White’s gun, which went off killing Cicciaro.
Mr. White was charged with second-degree manslaughter and third-degree weapons violations. He was ultimately convicted of both charges.
Mr. White recently lost his appeal bid to the New York State Supreme Court. The four judge panel rejected all the arguments made by Mr. White’s lawyers, including the seemingly inappropriate conduct of trial Judge Barbara Khan. The judges in their decision wrote: “Considering all of these circumstances, there is thus ample support for the jury’s conclusion that a reasonable person in the defendant’s position, and with his background and experiences, would not have believed that the use of deadly physical force was necessary to prevent the teenagers from unlawfully entering or attempting to enter his home to commit a crime, and that the shooting was thus not justified.”
How could these judges come to such a curious conclusion?
Did they consider part of Mr. White’s “background and experiences” was the knowledge his grandfather’s business, in 1920’s Alabama, was torched by the Klan? More importantly, did these judges really probe the imprudent behavior of Judge Khan? The truth is: this trial was headed to a hung jury before her interference. The judge, basically, threatened to force the jury to deliberate until Christmas Eve, by asking them to submit their religious itineraries for that Sunday. This was done on a Saturday where the jury deliberated for 12 hours.
We know there were, initially, two jurors who weren't convinced Mr. White was guilty. One of those holdouts was white South African, and West Islip resident, Francois Larche. Larche later lamented the events that transpired in the trial, including the jury’s lack of serious deliberations and the judge’s behavior.
According to Larche, Judge Khan told the jury another trial would burden the families. The judge also, reportedly, said if there was a mistrial the next trial’s jury "would not be any different from you." Did the New York State Supreme Court seriously investigate these statements? Larche said “the judge’s repetitive admonitions that another jury in Suffolk County would have to try the case resounded.” He also accused the judge of “blatant disregard for the well-being of the jury and her request for us to deliberate such unreasonable hours in order to extract a verdict at all costs.”
Larche said most of the jurors made up their minds “within an hour” of the first day of deliberations. “As far as they were concerned, a young kid was dead and somebody had to pay the price.” He added “There was no objective, clear reasoning” and they “identified” with the white youths, instead of Mr. White. Larche eventually succumbed to the jury’s bias.
This case reeks of racist double-standard. Some say Mr. White should’ve waited for the police. Perhaps, if he had the police would’ve reached in time to save his family from being victimized. How many of us—faced with a similar situation—would take that chance?
In 1984, Subway Vigilante Bernhard Goetz shot and injured four Black youths on a train. He once said "in a situation like this, your mind, you're in a combat situation…You're not thinking in a normal way…You are under adrenaline, a drug called adrenaline. And you respond very quickly.” Goetz was acquitted of all charges, except an illegal firearms violation.
Question: if John White was white, and the defendants Black, do you think the verdict would’ve been the same? An example can be found in the Joe Horn Case. Mr. Horn shot and killed two Black men, in his neighbor’s yard, in Pasadena , Texas . He wasn’t even indicted.
The John White Case is another reminder we aren’t in a “post-racial society.”
It’s an illustration of the “separate and unequal” dispensing of justice within American Jurisprudence. What happened to John White could happen to anyone of us. Every Black Long Islander—and New Yorker—needs to petition Governor Paterson to pardon John White.