Reporting Peter Haskell
CORAM, N.Y. (CBS 2 / 1010 WINS / WCBS 880) – After Gov. David Paterson granted a man convicted of shooting and killing a teenager on Long Island clemency, praise and outrage are emerging from the community.
John White had served 168 days of a two- to four-year sentence when he was released on Thursday in time to celebrate Christmas with his family inside their Miller Place home.
“I just want to thank God that he’s allowed me to come home to my family on this Christmas time. I also want to thank the governor,” White said on Thursday.
But in the 24 hours since White became a free man, the district attorney who prosecuted White called Paterson’s failure to communicate to the family of Daniel Cicciaro, the victim who White shot in 2006, an atrocious mistake.
Paterson said although he wouldn’t change his mind, he did admit to an error in not reaching out to the Cicciaro family.
“In retrospect, I would have sought the victim’s input. I spoke with the family today for nearly an hour. There were some points that Mrs. Cicciaro made that were certainly compelling,” Paterson said.
Policy expert Lawrence Levy called Paterson’s motivation into question.
“This is an extraordinary use—maybe even abuse of executive power,” said Levy, who is the dean at Hofstra University’s National Center for Suburban Studies.
White got manslaughter and a light sentence due to what White and his attorney Frederick Brewington called a drunken lynch mob and accidental pulling of the trigger.
“Sentencing speaks to what was in his mind at the time that he committed the crime. Obviously, a person who is under stress and who felt a threat did not reach the threshold of self-defense, but it was certainly in the manslaughter area,” Paterson said.
“A young man’s life was lost and the White family will never forget that–keep Cicciaros in their prayers,” Brewington said.
The community, meanwhile, is unsettled about the whole ordeal.
“I think for manslaughter someone should serve the full term,” one resident said.
“I think he served enough time under the circumstances,” another resident said.
White’s Faith Baptist Church, where he serves as deacon, sent hundreds of letters arguing White is a model citizen who was defending his family and his home.
Paterson said he reviewed all of the documentation in the case.