N.Y. Black Man is Guilty in Shooting Death of White Teen
Posted Dec. 23, 2007 – In a decision that defense attorneys say set African Americans back to the slave days, a jury late Saturday found a Black man guilty of shooting to death a White teen who showed up with his posse at his Long Island, N.Y., home in the middle of the night.
“What this jury has done is basically nullify 400 years of history and said that what you feel and the fear that you have when someone calls you names and rolls up on you as though they’re coming to a modern-day lynching is irrelevant … is a real concern,” defense attorney Frederick Brewington told reporters in the courthouse corridor following the verdict. “It’s a real concern when we are denied our history.
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It took a Suffolk County jury four days to conclude that John White was guilty of manslaughter and criminal possession of a weapon in the 2006 killing of an unarmed teenager, 17-year-old Daniel Cicciaro Jr., on Aug. 9, 2006.
White, 54, never denied shooting Cicciaro. He said that when the group of five angry Whites appeared, yelling racial slurs and demanding to see his son, whom they said had insulted a girl, he grabbed a handgun and told them to back off his property.
What happened next is what landed White in court. “Some little guy popped up on me,” White said during his testimony last week as tears streamed down his face. “He tried to snatch the gun. I pulled back and it fired. I didn’t mean to shoot this young man — he’s another child of God.”
During the trial, White said that seeing an angry White mob in the dark of night, calling him the “N”-word and insisting that he serve up his son took him back to when he was a scared little boy at his grandfather’s farm in Alabama.
“In my family history, that’s how the Klan comes,” White said. “They pull up; they blind you with their lights. They burn your house down. They threaten your family. That’s how they come. They were like a lynch mob.”
Brewington said that his client’s state of mind at the time he retrieved the loaded Beretta and started waving it at the group is critical. “John White and his family were scared to death, and the fact that that was not taken in and considered as an important aspect of the justification to go out and protect your home and protect your family is taking away from the value of that history,” he told reporters, adding that this is all about race.
But prosecutors argued that the case has little to do with race and a lot to do with White’s recklessness.
"Mr. White was faced in an unfortunate situation, in a difficult situation," District Attorney James Chalifoux said. "But he reacted to it poorly, recklessly and now a jury has said that he acted criminally." He noted, too, that he never heard White mention anything about lynch mobs before the trial.
The Cicciaro family was elated after the verdict.
“Thank God for the power of prayer. Thank everyone who prayed for us,” the victim’s mother, Joanne Cicciaro, told the crowd gathered in the courthouse. “We did it! We did it! My son is finally vindicated.”
Added Daniel Cicciaro, the victim’s father, “Thank you to the jury. Maybe now they’ll stop slinging my son’s name and stop accusing him of all this racism.”
“This was never about race. It’s about individuals and individual actions,” the mother chimed in again.
But a disappointed Marie Michel, another of White’s attorneys, said the Cicciaro family is ignoring reality.
“If the races were reversed, there would not have been an indictment and you would not be in the courthouse today,” she said.
“If five African-American young men had gone to a White homeowner’s home in the middle of the night, threatening the family, and the homeowner came out and intentionally or accidentally shot any of them, there would not be an indictment, there would not have been an arrest, and there would be no case.”
John White is free until sentencing on Feb. 21. He faces a maximum sentence of 12 to 22 years in prison.
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