EXCLUSIVE: John White feels 'blessed and highly favored'
Nayaba Arinde | 4/12/2011, 4:46 p.m.
"I am blessed and highly favored." John White is forever thankful. The fact he is home and out of prison--after serving five months of a two-to-four-year sentence--is not lost on him. On the Wednesday before Christmas, then-Governor David Paterson shocked everyone by commuting the sentence of the Long Island father who had defended his family in August 2006 against an armed gang of white boys in a car. They had come to confront White's son Aaron, and threatened to rape White's wife Sonya. In the resulting fracas, the leader of the pack, one Daniel Cicciaro, 17, was shot.
While John White's many supporters and legal team claimed self-defense, he was convicted of manslaughter, and was sent to prison for two to four years. He began serving his sentence last July. He was home by Christmas.
"I was at home and went to the Faith Baptist Church of Coram at Christmas. As a deacon in the church I have responsibilities. I continue to carry on my life in the church, devout Christian that I am. I know that. God never quit on me. I asked him to use me as he saw fit--so be careful what you ask for."
White added, "I wanted a full exoneration for what happened to me, and that didn't happen, but I am grateful."
Last week, coincidently, both White and Paterson were in attendance at the Comus Club gala at Terrace on the Park. Asked what that meeting was like: "He embraced me," White said of the governor.
Truly thankful and incredibly humble as he is, White said, "The way the case happened in Suffolk County--you had to be there to see it. It was a kangaroo court, an upside-down trial. Things that should have been done were not. If I had been white it would have not gone this way."
There were rallies and protests in support of John White as the trial and appeals went on. Members of the Nation of Islam, 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement and the Black Law Enforcement Alliance stood post for John White and his family on numerous occasions.
"Many people supported me, both upfront and in the background - many who can't come forward. I won't say who they are. If anything else happens I might need them again, or someone else might need them. There were many people not of African-American descent. But I got a lot of support from churches and politicians; but most of most of the support came from the little people who wrote letters, signed petitions called their politicians; and the NAACP, 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement and the Nation of Islam--who gave me support inside and outside of the jail system. These people came wherever I was. Some had members inside the jail. There was a full support system. God had his way with this case. Correction officials who knew who I was protected me in this case."
On a certain level humanity beat out racism, White said. "People are people and when they see someone in a situation they shouldn't be in--they go out on limb. All of us have people we love, and people just asked themselves, 'What would you do? Would you stay in your house or go out and defend your family?' What happened to me is in our history. I feel for that young man because I feel if his family had taught him better he wouldn't have been out there that night."