LI man guilty in death of white teen

Jury finds John White guilty of manslaughter in racially charged shooting
December 23, 2007 9:14:43 AM PST
A black man who invoked images of lynch mobs in explaining why he killed a white teenager was convicted of second-degree manslaughter when a jury rejected defense lawyers' arguments that his actions were justified. Jurors reached a verdict Saturday after four days of deliberations and an emotional three-week trial that flared around questions of race and recklessness.

The defendant, John White, raised the nation's history of racist violence in describing why he brandished a gun at a group of angry white teenagers who came to his house on Aug. 9, 2006. White ultimately shot 17-year-old Daniel Cicciaro in what he said was an accident, but a prosecutor said was the result of poor judgment.

Saying White planned to appeal, defense attorney Fred Brewington called the verdict "disappointing for African-Americans" in the area.

"You have to survive in Suffolk County, where people can roll up on your house at 11:30 at night, threaten you, threaten your family, curse at you, call you a (N-word), and you've got to take it," he said.

But the slain teen's mother, Joanne Cicciaro, said the case "was never about race. It was about individuals and individuals' actions."

White, 54, remains free on bail until sentencing, when he faces a prison term of five to 15 years. White also was convicted of a weapons possession misdemeanor that carries a penalty of two to seven years in prison, which would likely run concurrently with the other sentence.

The verdict came after a marathon 12-hour deliberation session in which jurors said they were deadlocked - as they briefly had the day before. The judge told them around 8:15 p.m. Saturday to keep deliberating, and notice of the verdict came about 45 minutes later. Jurors declined to comment.

Outside the courtroom, the Cicciaro family's supporters chanted "Dan-O! Dan-O!" and honked their horns as they drove away. Several supporters had the teenager's nickname, "Dano Jr.," tattooed on their bodies.

"My son is finally vindicated," Joanne Cicciaro said. "The truth prevailed."

The shooting happened outside White's home in Miller Place, a predominantly white community on eastern Long Island. His 19-year-old son, Aaron, had awoken him around 11 p.m. to tell him he had been feuding with other teenagers after being asked to leave a party, and several of the teenagers were headed to the Whites' house for a confrontation.

John White first grabbed a shotgun, then opted for a pistol he had hidden in the garage. He and his son, who picked up the shotgun, went down the driveway to confront the teens in the street.

"He wanted to stop these people who said they were coming to kill his son," Brewington said in closing arguments.

White contended the gun fired accidentally when Cicciaro lunged for it.

Suffolk County Assistant District Attorney James Chalifoux said White should simply have locked the door and called police, rather than going outside to confront the teenagers with a gun. They were unarmed.

Chalifoux also sought to downplay the racial element, telling jurors the Brooklyn-raised White never said anything about a lynch mob until the case went to trial. The prosecutor noted that the Klan attack on White's grandfather occurred 30 years before White was born.

He quoted White on the night he was arrested as telling police: "I did what I had to do. You might as well put the cuffs on now. This is the end of me."

After the verdict was read, Dan Cicciaro Sr. defended his son. "Maybe now they'll stop slinging my son's name and stop accusing him of all this racism," he said.