Photo of John White and 17-year old Daniel Cicciaro
The following case took place on Long Island in 2006. My purpose in posting about the story is not to retry the case because I was not in the courtroom and do not know if Mr. White, a black man, murdered Daniel Cicciaro, a 17-year old white boy, in cold blood. I do know, however, that racial bias ran through the case from the onset and the media ran with it.
I was fairly supportive of Mr. White at the time because by all accounts he was a good man who was never in trouble, however, I wonder if I was supportive because of the news reports I was reading.
The media decides what we will think and how we will think.
The White case is proof that we must follow the rule of law and not our emotions when searching for justice.
John White, the shooter, was given a 2-4 year prison term for shooting the 17-year old white teenager in the face from three inches away. The maximum sentence for this type of crime is 15 years. He received 2 years for possessing an illegal gun and 1 1/2 years for the killing.
The slain youth, Daniel Cicciaro, was reportedly screaming racial epithets and threats at Mr. White over a misunderstanding regarding his son Aaron, a friend of Cicciaro’s group. Mr. White was also reported to have been screaming.
The shooting took place in the street according to the boys in the group. Mr. White said it occurred in his driveway.
Daniel Cicciaro was visibly drunk at the time of the shooting and had been told by a girl in their group that Aaron threatened to rape her, a claim later proven false.
As Cicciaro and his group of friends gathered outside Mr. White’s home, with Cicciaro allegedly verbally threatening the White family, Mr. White told his son Aaron to get his gun – his illegally-possessed gun. White chose to go outside with his gun instead of staying inside and calling 911. He later said he was afraid for his life and the lives of his wife and son. He said he heard stories of white lynch mobs in the south.
What happened next is also in dispute. White said his gun accidentally discharged, killing the boy. Police have a different version of events. They said that when White first pointed the gun at Cicciaro, Cicciaro slapped the gun away, and that’s when White pointed the gun at him a second time and fired at point blank range.
There was no evidence to corroborate White’s account and the White family was uncooperative with police according to the prosecutor on the case.
Cicciaro’s friends, of whom Aaron White was one, were described by the media as a gang, but I know who the boys were and they were not a gang at all. They were a group of drunk and rowdy teenagers, not to excuse any bad conduct.
Al Sharpton brought some of his followers up to Riverhead, Long Island for a march on White’s behalf. Sharpton kept up the pressure . The end result was that White was released from prison after serving only 5 months of his sentence.
New York Governor David Paterson commuted the sentence in the final days of his administration, saying 5 months was enough time, releasing White in time for the Christmas holiday. It infuriated the lawyer who prosecuted the case. Governor Patterson never even contacted the Cicciaro family.
“This is an inspiring example of an elected official using commutation powers for good,” said Benjamin Jealous, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
When asked how he felt about the shooting by a reporter, Mr. White said, “I’m remorseful…that’s it.”
Al Sharpton said that he hoped the families would move toward healing and that the governor “showed great courage and fairness.”
The news reports about the sentence commutation were nothing like those in the Trayvon Martin case.
The NY Times, in reporting on the commutation, quoted the defense as saying, “the tension associated with the Deep South in the civil rights era was alive in 2006, in a New York suburb with good schools, high property values and privileged children.” There were no corresponding comments from the victim’s family or the prosecutor.
Huff Po reported the White story on July 16th of this year as a parallel case to the Zimmerman case, saying White would not have been convicted if the victim were black and the shooter was white.
Many of the media reports presented the teens as a lynch mob and the Whites as merely defending their home. The comments about the lynch mob were supposedly made by Aaron White on the night of the shooting but that information didn’t come out until much later, after Sharpton was involved.
The case was tried in the news and the victim was a victimized twice. I don’t know the extent to which Mr. White was guilty. I only know that the one trial Cicciaro received was in the media.
Mr. White moved out of the town he lived in and now lives a neighboring town with different demographics. Sometimes when I’m driving around, I see a van with a decal that says, RIP, Daniel Cicciaro, August 9 2006.