by SAEED SHABAZZ
Special to the AmNews
“What this jury has done is nullify 400 years of history in this country,” stated defense attorney Fred Brewington after a Suffolk County jury of 10 whites, one Latino and one Black convicted John White, 54, of second-degree manslaughter in the killing of a 17-year-old white youth, Daniel Cicciaro, Jr., The conviction came after four days of deliberation.
Brewington argued that Cicciaro was part of a “mob” that had gathered in the White’s front yard on the night of Aug. 9, 2006. The charge carries a sentence of five to 15 years in prison. White was also convicted of criminal possession of an unlicensed weapon, a .32 caliber Baretta pistol.
According to testimony, Cicciaro and his friends confronted White and his son Aaron, who was 19 at the time of the shooting, because of an e-mail message that said young Aaron wanted to rape a 15-year-old white female. It has been revealed that a friend of Aaron’s was actually responsible for the e-mail, which had been sent some nine months before the shooting.
“Thank you God,” said the victim’s mother after the verdict was rendered, adding, “It was the power of prayer—My son is finally vindicated.
During the racially charged trial, the defense produced testimony that the victim used racial epithets, while his family denied that he was a racist.
“It was never about race—It was about a person’s actions and being responsible for those actions,” Cicciaro’s mother told reporters. “They can stop slinging mud at my son’s name and accusing him of all this racism,” Daniel Cicciaro, Sr., told reporters outside of the courtroom.
Brewington called the verdict “disappointing for African Americans.”
“John White and his family were scared to death—a justification for going out [into the front yard] to protect your family,” he said.
Lead prosecutor James Chalifoux, while acknowledging that the teens used epithets, said the trial did not hinge on race, but rather on the rash actions of a quick-tempered man who kept an arsenal in his house in preparation for such a situation. Prosecutors said White, who was originally charged with second-degree murder, which carries a prison term of 25 years, escalated the tensions by wielding a firearm and “deliberately” shooting young Cicciaro.
The prosecution throughout the proceedings argued that White should have locked himself in his house and awaited the arrival of the police instead of grabbing a gun.
Sonia White, 60, testified that on the night of the incident, she was too “paralyzed with fear to move from the front door to call 911.”
According to police statements and testimony during the trial, Aaron was asked to leave a party in a nearby town by Cicciaro and his friends because of the e-mail and he complied. The gang of white youth, however, reportedly decided to go to the Black family’s Miller Place home.
In his opening remarks, defense attorney Paul Gianelli told the jury: “In the South, Black men were hanged because of the accusation they raped a white woman.”
White had earlier testified he grew up hearing stories about how the KKK torched his grandfather’s business in Alabama in the 1920s and was fearful a similar attack was about to happen. He also said that some relatives had been lynched in the 1940s.
“I did not mean to shoot the young man, he was a child of God,” White told the court during his testimony.
“These were 17 to 19-year-olds who were intoxicated, with the knowledge of white privilege,” defense attorney Marie Michel explained to the AmNews, adding, “And the police and prosecutors backed up that theory.” The medical examiner testified that Cicciaro’s blood alcohol level was past the legal limit to drive.
“We are moving on Mr. White’s appeal; and we are looking at this case through a national and global lens,” she said. Attorney Michel said this case is a “throw back to the Dred Scott Case,” which said a Black man had no rights a white man need respect.
There are only 47 Black families in the community of Miller Place, where the population is 11,000. Twelve percent of Long Island’s population is Black, with less than 1 percent living in integrated neighborhoods. Suffolk County, where the trial was held, “comprises the third most segregated region in the U.S., when measuring Black-white residential segregation in suburban areas of all metro regions,” according to U.S. census 2000 data.
The median income for Miller Place in 2005 was $95,000; and the estimated median home/condo value in 2005 was $444,100, according to census data. The white population is 94.2 percent.
“In a county like Suffolk, it is like old Mississippi,” famed civil rights attorney Tariq Salim told the AmNews. “Unless you get jurors who have the lifestyle experiences of the accused, it would be virtually impossible to get a fair trial, “ he said.
The New York Times noted that “each family was buffered by intimidating groups—the White family by members of the Nation of Islam, the Cicciaros by burly men with shaved heads and biker clothing.”
Kevin Muhammad, minister in training at Mosque No. 7 and members of the Fruit of Islam have been with the White family throughout the trial.
“My barber told me the story,” Muhammad told the AmNews. “Our people who have to go before these courts need requisite support,” he said.
“The Hon. Min. Louis Farrakhan has instructed us that ‘when you see our people in need, stand by them,’” Muhammad said.
The New York Times reported thusly on Dec. 11, the day Aaron testified on behalf of his father: “Aaron White—dressed in a bullet proof vest—was escorted into the courthouse by large Black men from the Nation of Islam wearing overcoats and derbies and bow ties. He stepped down from the witness stand and was whisked out of the courthouse by the men of the Nation of Islam; they in their bow ties, he in the bullet proof vest.”
According to Muhammad, the vest was supplied by the Black police organization 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care because of constant death threats against the 20-year-old, who had to drop out of Suffolk Community College, quit his job and move away from home.
“Our presence was a welcome presence,” Muhammad said. “There was no level of antagonism from our contingent,” he added.
Muhammad said he wanted Black people to understand that they must “follow the guidance of the Hon. Elijah Muhammad and the direction of his representative the Hon. Min. Louis Farrakhan, because the straight path is the only way to defeat this enemy.”
by SAEED SHABAZZ