An appeals court has upheld the manslaughter conviction of John White.
White, a 56-year-old working, family man has always said that he was defending himself from a marauding mob of white teens who threatened to murder his teenaged son and rape his wife, in August 2006. In an ensuing physical altercation, when an intoxicated 16-year-old Daniel Cicciaro Jr. approached him from behind, White’s gun went off, killing the assailant.
Facing a maximum of 15 years, White was convicted of second-degree manslaughter and sentenced to two to four years in prison. Last week, a state appeals court upheld his manslaughter conviction of the Black Miller Place homeowner.
“Gov. David Paterson should pardon John White,” declared retired detective Graham Weatherspoon. “He was confronted by nightriders and he defended himself and his family.”
An online petition states: “The following persons and organizations hereby respectfully request that Gov. David Paterson exercise his executive authority under the New York State Constitution and the New York Executive Law to unconditionally and fully pardon John White, a person of African ancestry, for convictions of manslaughter in the second degree and criminal possession of a weapon in the third degree on December 22, 2007 in Suffolk County Court for the death of Daniel Cicciaro, a member of a white mob who trespassed on White’s residence threatening to rape his wife and to kill him and his family.”
Following an AmNews request for a response, Paterson declined to comment.
“He ought to do something for this decent, upright family man.,” said Weatherspoon of the governor. “This is a case where young white hooligans wanted to terrorize a Black family based on the false report that a young man did something that he did not do. Aaron White did absolutely nothing; but this white boy made up a story that he wanted to rape a white girl and an intoxicated Daniel Cicciaro took it upon himself to confront an adult. All those white boys were underage dinking at a party; and went drunk to Mr. White’s house and threatened to kill his son and that ‘skinny nigger’ referring to Mr. John White, and to rape his wife.”
Weatherspoon, also a co-founder of the Black in Law Enforcement Alliance continued, “Those white boys drove like nightriders, while John white slept – he had to be up at 4am to go to work. When they got to his home, Mr. White saw that KKK stuff back in the south. There they were; trespassing with intent to commit a crime; and as John walks back up the drive, after he tells them to ‘Get off my property,’ this Edward G. Robinson little guy Cicciaro runs up on him and attempts to take the gun; that’s attempted robbery in the second degree. The gun goes off in the midst of the struggle. He’s supposed to allow this boy to get his gun after them saying that they were going to rape his wife and kill his son? There had been no intent in his mind to shoot anyone.”
John White was not only defending his family, said Weatherspoon, but he was also a “victim of attempted robbery. Where is the sanctity of the home how much crap is someone supposed to put up with? Do people remember what happened in Texas with the neighbor who shot and killed people on somebody else’s property?”
What seemed to be an ongoing conflict was exacerbated when one white teen and a subsequent Internet posting accused Aaron White of wanting to rape a white female friend of one of the teens.
On the fateful night, the same source of the fraudulent rumor allegedly called Aaron to let him know the gang was on their way to his home. The young man woke his dad around 11 p.m. to let him know.
John White has recounted how his family was terrorized by the Ku Klux Klan in Alabama in the 1920s, including his grandfather’s business being set alight. With that clearly in his mind, White took his loaded pistol, gave his son a shotgun, and went to confront the threat at the end of his driveway.
Even though White was confronted with the mob of white boys hurling racist taunts, as they spilled out of two cars at the end of his Suffolk County drive; the State Supreme Court appellate panel of four judges stated that the father of two should have simply stayed in his home and called 911.
The court noted that the altercation occurred 81 feet from the front door, but. Cicciaro was shot in the face at close range. Even though White has maintained that the gun went of accidentally, the appeals court ruled that there is “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.”
White has remained free on bail pending the appeal.
“[The] decision clearly and unequivocally supports the jury verdict in this case,” said Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota. “I am pleased that the court agreed with the prosecution that the defendant’s actions were not justified under the law and that this tragedy could have been avoided had Mr. White stayed inside his home and called 911.”
“It is what it is,” Daniel Cicciaro Sr. said of the court’s ruling, noting that he visits his son’s grave every morning “before work to keep my sanity,”.
“[John’s] doing amazingly well under the circumstances,” said Richard Mischel, one of White’s attorneys. He told the AmNews that a conference call was being held late Wednesday afternoon to determine further legal action in terms of appealing the decision, and requesting an extension of the bail. “The appellant division confirmed the conviction,” said Mischel. “So we are appealing the highest court for permission to file a second appeal, and to extend his stay of sentence, at least until the decision is made as to whether we can appeal.”
“In rejecting John White’s appeal, the court intended to send a chilling message that self defense is a legal privilege that selectively excludes Black people,” boomed Marquez Claxton, director, Black Law Enforcement Alliance The law grants us the right to protect ourselves and our families, especially in our homes, but beyond the law we have a moral obligation to do so and this decision hasn’t changed that. Just as the Court rejected Mr. White’s legal application, Black people must reject the Court’s de facto surrender order.”
In November 2007, Joe Horn, 61, a Pasadena, Texas resident, told a 911 dispatcher that he was about to shoot two burglary suspects on a neighbor’s property. “I’ve got a shotgun. Do you want me to stop them?” the 911 tape recorded Horn saying.
The dispatcher responded no, telling him to fall back and that cops were on their way, “Stay inside the house and don’t go out there, OK?” Horn shot Miguel Antonio Dejesus, 38, and Diego Ortiz any way. He did not face murder or manslaughter charges.
“We continue to stand by John White and his family,” said Abdul Hafeez Muhammad, head of Harlem’s Mosque Number 7, and Min. Louis Farrakhan’s New York representative. “While some have thought that he should have called 911, which he instructed his wife to do, he did not have time to change his mind as he thought his family was about to be attacked. He was living in real time when they said they were there to rape his wife, and kill his son, who had been lied upon; as his property was being transgressed upon. He made the best decision he could to defend his family. Other people in the community said to me that had this happened to them, there wouldn’t have been any assailants left to testify against them. So this shows the restraint Mr White had. Everyone must remember he was turning away from the five assailants when Danny Cicciaro junior jumped on him and called him a skinny nigger, because he had no respect for him, which caused the weapon to discharge. Those boys drove with Cicciaro around for 45 minutes to an hour when the hospital was only ten minutes away. They were apparently discarding weapons and evidence and trying to formulate their response.”
Muhammad also referenced the Texas neighbor case. “Here’s a man who killed two robbery suspects on another neighbor’s property and he’s on the phone telling 911 what he is about to do; and he faces no charges. Yet a man accidentally fires a weapon defending himself and his family, and he gets charges.”
Saying that he supports the bid to get Gov. Paterson to pardon John White, Muhammad concluded, “I think better consideration should be given here, even though the weapon was illegal. In Texas, while the weapon was legal on John Horn’s property, it was not legal on someone else’s. John White was on his own property. We have rallied with Mr. White, in Long Island, in CEMOTAP in Queens, and we along with 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement periodically check on him and his family.”
“We want to approach the governor in terms of granting him a pardon,” said Weatherspoon. “Here’s a man who worked at a construction company, a family man, who had never been in trouble with the law, sons college bound, forced to exercise his right to defend his family from a mob. Mr. White had a right to defend his family. Those white boys should never have got out of the car. The boy who started rumor told Aaron the guys were coming to get him that’s when Aaron woke up his father and told him they were on their way. Some of the boys left because they had enough sense enough to get out of there.”
Still outraged by the case, Weatherspoon asked, “What gives right them the right to walk into another community you don’t live in, one with a bat as usual, talking about you’re gonna rape their wife and kill their son?
“People don’t take responsibility for their actions and the causes of their actions. Cicciaro was drinking and driving. He had no business drinking, being served liquor and then driving. And the boy who started the rumor fled into the military because he was afraid to face what he caused. But we saw the mindset of all of this when Cicciaro’s family and father – who does not have a squeaky-clean record regarding Black people, and who threatened John White after the conviction when he said, ‘Let’s see how he feels when his son is dead.’ We said then, ‘You got to bring some to get some.’.”
Weatherspoon concluded, “People want to help this family, and there is a website that people can go to sign on
www.ipetitions.com/petition/pardonjohnwhitenow. We support John White and his family.”