ALBANY, N.Y. — Governor David Paterson of New York yesterday commuted the sentence of a black man imprisoned for the racially charged shooting death of a white teenager on Long Island, a decision in the final days of his administration that infuriated the lawyer who prosecuted the case.
Paterson said the five months John Harris White has served was enough time for the emotion-fueled 2006 shooting death of Daniel Cicciaro, 17. Paterson said everybody connected with the case had suffered enough, and White was released.
White teenagers were feuding with John White’s 19-year-old son, Aaron, when they went by the carload to their home in August 2006. White was convicted of manslaughter for shooting one of the teenagers at the foot of his driveway, to deter what he referred to as a lynch mob.
A judge sentenced White to two to four years in prison, a fraction of the maximum, four years ago. He went to prison in July this year after his appeals were rejected.
Cicciaro’s father, Daniel Sr., screamed at the verdict after the trial: “Let’s see what happens when Aaron White gets shot.’’
White returned to his home. “Merry Christmas,’’ he said, according to the New York Daily News. “I’m definitely glad to be home with my family for Christmas, and I hope everyone has a pleasant and happy holiday.’’
District Attorney Thomas J. Spota of Suffolk County, N.Y., blasted Paterson for the way he handled his decision. “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.
Spota said the court’s decision, upheld by an appellate court, determined that a reasonable person would not have believed deadly force was needed that hot summer night.