N.Y. Gov. David Paterson Commutes Sentence of Man Convicted of Teenager's Death in Racially Charged Shooting

Outgoing gov. commutes sentence of black man convicted in white teen's death.

ByABC News
December 23, 2010, 10:45 PM

Dec. 24, 2010 — -- Outgoing New York Gov. David Paterson commuted the sentence of a black man three years to the day after a Long Island jury convicted him of manslaughter for fatally shooting a white teen who he claimed threatened his son,

John White, 57, was released from a Saratoga County, N.Y., state prison Thursday after serving more than five months of his original two- to four-year sentence.

White had returned to his Miller Place home Thursday, where he used an unregistered gun to shoot 17-year-old Daniel Cicciaro point-blank, in the face, on the night of Aug. 9, 2006.

White, claiming he was protecting his son and his home from a mob of angry white teens, shot Cicciaro after he lunged for White's loaded handgun, which went off accidentally. Teenagers who accompanied Cicciaro said White aimed and fired.

Speaking outside his home in the affluent Miller Place community, White said he felt blessed. "Definitely glad to be home with my family for Christmas," he told media and supporters. "I hope everyone has a blessed and happy holiday."

The dead young man's father, Daniel Cicciaro, told New York's Daily News, "I'm not happy about it. I just can't talk about it right now." His ex-wife, Joanne Cicciaro, told the News, "Of course, he's angry. The guy already had a light sentence and he can't even serve that out? It's just ridiculous."

This case has been overshadowed by racial overtones from the beginning, and Paterson acknowledged that his decision to commute White's sentence could be met with disapproval.

"Our society strives to be just, but the pursuit of justice is a difficult and arduous endeavor," the governor said is a statement. "While the incident and Mr. White's trial engendered much controversy and comment, and varying assessments of justice were perceived, its most common feature was heartbreak. My decision today may be an affront to some and a joy to others, but my objective is only to seek to ameliorate the profound suffering that occurred as a result of this tragic event.

"The action I am taking today is one of understanding, forgiveness and hope, which I believe are essential components of justice."

Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas J. Spota had tough words for Paterson.

"I strongly believe the governor should have had the decency and the compassion to at least contact the victim's family to allow them to be heard before commuting the defendant's sentence," Spota said in a statment.