RIVERHEAD, Long Island, N.Y. (FinalCall.com) – Chanting “Free John White!” “Free John White!” hundreds of demonstrators, Black, White and Latino, answered a call from the Rev. Al Sharpton and the National Action Network to show up in front of the Suffolk County courthouse to protest the guilty verdict against John White, 54, of Miller Place, Long Island.
Mr. White faces a maximum of 15 years in jail after being convicted of manslaughter in the second-degree. His sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 21. The father and husband was convicted on Dec. 22 in the “accidental” shooting death of Daniel Cicciaro. He remains free on $100,000 bail; and his defense team is preparing an appeal.
“We come today as one community, because if they are allowed to invade and violate the property of one of us, then they will be allowed to invade and trespass on the property belonging to any of us,” Rev. Sharpton told the Jan. 5 gathering.
Mr. White, a construction foreman, has maintained that the shooting was unintentional, saying the 17-year-old lunged for the handgun, and it went off.
During the three-week trial, Mr. White’s lawyers maintained he felt threatened by five White teens who invaded his property after 11 p.m. on a week night, threatening to harm his son, Aaron, and rape his wife, Sonia. The lawyers told the jury that the drunken youths were reminiscent of southern lynch mobs.
Rev. Sharpton noted that police only focused on the shooting, ignoring the culpability of the “drunken White teens,” who according to testimony used racial epithets. “What amazes me,” said the longtime activist, “is how you start an investigation halfway after the events of the evening was over.” Suffolk County law enforcement officials did not start their investigation at the moment the teens “decided to trespass and menace the White family,” he said.
You can’t start half way and come back with full justice, Rev. Sharpton stressed.
“At that point they committed a crime. A crime they have not been prosecuted for, or held accountable for, if they can do that to him, they can do that to any family or home owner in this county–Black, White, Asian and Latino,” Rev. Sharpton said.
“Everybody that lives in this county needs to understand that as long as these young men have not been prosecuted–there will be a legal precedent in this county–people have the right to come to your home to block your driveway, ring your bell, threaten your life and expect nothing to happen, because they can cite the John White case,” he warned, bringing an energetic response from the crowd.
“I have come to join the leadership here to demand the immediate arrest and prosecution of the mob that went to John White’s house,” Rev. Sharpton added.
“There is an injustice in Long Island,” Kevin Muhammad, student minister from Muhammad Mosque No. 7 in Harlem told the crowd, while holding up a copy of The Final Call newspaper. Then turning to look at Mr. White, who was standing nearby, Mr. Muhammad said, “He does not deserve to spend years in prison, so let’s be supportive of him not just today, but tomorrow and the next day.”
Mr. Muhammad stood with the White family throughout the trial.
John White, reading from a prepared statement, thanked the crowd for its support.
“I know God will walk me through the fire,” he said. “The past months have been very difficult for my family and me,” Mr. White said. “But I have never wavered in my commitment to obtain fair treatment,” he noted.
“We came to these hallowed halls looking for justice, and what we found was just-us,” defense attorney Fred Brewington told the crowd. “I came before this system and said be just to John White,” Mr. Brewington said. They had a trial, but it was not a trial by an impartial jury of Mr. White’s peers, he said.
“This John White case is the most egregious example of racism. They are telling us, you can’t defend your own home, and you can’t defend your own family against racist thugs,” Heather Cotton, of Freeport, Long Island, told The Final Call. Ms. Cotton, who is White, is an activist with the Martin Luther King Jr. Coalition
“I am glad to see a significant number of White people out here today,” she said. “There has always been racism out here against Blacks, I know because I grew up out here,” Ms. Cotton said.
“I had to be out here support this brother and his family; and make sure that justice is done,” said Dorothy Gist, an elderly woman from Elmont, Long Island. The man was just trying to protect his home, she said.
A 24-year-old Black man from Nassau County, said a lot of young people understand what’s going on. “There’s a lot of people from my generation here today,” he said. “We know racism exists, and it’s time for a change.”
Lashana, a young Black woman, braved the cold, with her four year-old son on her shoulder and the one-year-old in a stroller. She lives some 15 minutes from the courthouse. “I had to be here to be a part of this. If this could happen now, what’s going to happen to my son’s when they grow up?” she asked. “It’s important to be here to support John White.”