As is making the newsrounds, John White and his family received a very nice Xmas present from Governor David Paterson. White was convicted of manslaughter in the killing of Daniel Cicciaro Jr., as Cicciaro and his friends converged on White's home in Miller Place, NY. Governor Paterson, the lame duck Chief Executive of the State of New York, commuted White's sentence to time served, and White was home for the holiday.
Cicciaro and his friends were white, and White is black, and the whole matter has lots of racial overtones and undertones. One mitigating factor in White's original sentence was that White said, with some degree of credibility, that he feared a lynch mob. Cicciaro & company did, after all, converge on White's house to send a message to White's son, who had been alleged (apparently falsely) to have issued a rape threat against a white girl.
I have mixed feelings on this one. First of all, Paterson's failure to alert Cicciaro's family that he was issuing the commutation belies a severe disregard for the rights of victims. And as blogged previously in connection with this case, any matter in which Fat Al Sharpton issues a commendatory statement is always, always suspect unless demonstrated otherwise.
But one test I apply to determine my objectivity is to inquire what the stance would be if the religious, ethnic and/or social groups were to be switched or shifted. And so, I now inquire of myself what my position would be if John White were Jewish. I have had some occasions in my formative years to face gangs of Gentile kids (their specific ethnicities are not particularly relevant) with violent intentions against me and/or my companions. And I know a number of Jewish people who have actually been on the receiving end of violence by gangs of Caucasian non-Jewish gangs coming up to their homes.
[While I make no claims to being totally free of biases, I do not automatically side with Jewish criminals. This Blog's past postings regarding the recent Florida execution of cop-killer Martin Grossman should bear that out.].
If John White had been a Jewish man whose family was threatened by a mob of white Gentile teenagers who came to his house, then, under the circumstances, I would have some empathy for John White. Yes, Mr. White did overreact in trying to protect his family from what he believed was lethal danger, and so, he certainly deserves some sort of punishment. There also was a settlement for an undisclosed sum in a civil lawsuit by Cicciaro's parents against White. But what Cicciaro and his mob did was wrong!
On Long Island, law enforcement agencies and community activists are always talking about the problem of criminal gangs of youths. And almost all of those gangs are Black and/or Latino. Why do white gangs pose less of a threat to society?
Were I the Governor, I likely would have let John White's sentence of 2 - 4 years stand. In that regard, Paterson commuted White's sentence to time served; he did not pardon White. John White can go right back to the slammer to resume his original sentence if he commits any further crimes.
But Paterson's commutation states what Cicciaro's family and friends have yet to acknowledge: Cicciaro's mob behavior was wrong and unacceptable!
There is plenty of blame to go around on this one, and no ideal resolution to the tragedy. But Paterson, with only days to go before leaving the Governor's Mansion, sent out a message that does need to be sent.