Governor Frees Dad in Racially Charged Long Island Shooting

Case began with an argument amongst teens in 2006 on Long Island

By Greg Cergol
|  Friday, Dec 24, 2010  |  Updated 8:51 AM EDT
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Governor Frees Dad in Racially Charged Long Island Shooting

NBCNewYork.com

John White enters court during an earlier appearance.

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The gubernatorial decision came as a surprise even to the man who gained his freedom by it.

"I didn't know about it until late Wednesday afternoon," said a relieved John White.

The convicted killer stood outside his Miller Place home, surrounded by supporters and reporters, hours after being released from an upstate prison. 

"I feel blessed and highly favored," he said.

Until Thursday morning, White had been serving two to four years behind bars for the racially charged shooting of white teenager Daniel Cicciaro in 2006.

Outgoing NY Governor David Patterson commuted White's sentence after just six months, saying in a statement, "my decision may be an affront to some and a joy to others; but my objective is to seek to ameliorate the profound suffering that occurred as a result of this tragic event."

Cicciaro, 17, had been shot in the face after he and several friends appeared outside the White home, threatening White's son and shouting racial epithets.

Rather than call police, White met the mob with a handgun. He later claimed the Cicciaro shooting was an accident.

Earlier this year, however, a NY appellate court upheld White's conviction, saying he should have called 911 rather than leave his house with a gun that fateful night. 

White's prison release Thursday prompted a scathing response from Suffolk county district attorney Thomas Spota.

"I strongly believe the Governor should have had the decency and compassion to at least contact the victim's family to allow them to be heard before commuting the defendant's sentence," Spota's statement read.

At the Cicciaro family business in Port Jefferson Station, several people refused comment Thursday.  A picture of shooting victim Daniel Cicciaro still hangs in the window there.

 "No one should bring a gun to the street and shoot people," was the response from Cicciaro's mother Joanne back in July when John White began his prison term.

White's supporters have insisted race played in role in his prosecution and had called on New York Governor Paterson to either commute White's sentence or pardon him.

"It is unfair that a black man can not defend his own family here in Suffolk county," said A. Hafeez Muhammad, the New York representative of the Nation of Islam.

"The White family is like the Huxtables," said Michael Greys of 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement, referring to the name of the fictitious black family from NBC's the "Cosby Show." "Look what they did to the Huxtables.

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