Photos from New York Daily News
Long Island, the most segregated suburban area in the United States, is suffering from racial tension and a broken heart. The tragic shooting death of 17-year-old Daniel Cicciaro, Jr. in August of 2006, has rendered the community divided throughout the trial of John White, and now his controversial sentence of 2-4 years.
In what can only be described as a complex and confusing case, the sentence which was handed down on March 19th, has been met with heated comments on both sides. The issue of protecting your home and your family has now taken a back seat to the issues of race and justice.
On what has been described as a very hot night in August, Aaron White and a friend, Michael Longo, were looking for something to do so they began calling some of their friends. They heard about a party being held at Craig Martin’s house. It was a birthday celebration for Craig and the beer was flowing freely. Everything seemed great and everyone was having a good time – until 15-year-old Jennifer Martin, Craig’s sister, told her brother that she was not comfortable with Aaron around.
According to an account written by Calvin Trillin in the New Yorker (March 3, 2008), Craig didn’t know why Jennifer felt that way, but sent Daniel Cicciaro to ask Aaron to leave. It wasn’t until after Aaron left, without incident, that Jennifer said that nine months earlier, in an online chatroom, Aaron had threatened to rape her. A fact that was later shown to be false as Michael Longo later admitted that he had set up a phony MySpace under Aaron’s name.
The revelation of Aaron’s reported threat enraged the youth and, in particular, Daniel. They began making phone calls to Aaron, who is African-American, and threatening him while using racial epithets and working their drunken anger into a frenzy. Finally, five very drunk young men climbed into two cars and drove to the home of Aaron White.
Aaron’s friend, Michael, had called to alert him, and Aaron became terrified. He woke his father yelling that someone was coming to kill him.
John White climbed from his bed as a car pulled into his driveway shining the lights into his beautiful “dream home,” something that he and his wife had worked very hard to acquire. He entered the garage and grabbed a very old gun that had been left to him by his grandfather and went outside. What happened at that point is not certain.
The young men claim that he came out pointing the gun and screaming that he was going to shoot – they claim that he said that at least three times.
Mr. White claims that they were shouting racial slurs as they entered his property. Both sides agree that Daniel either slapped at the gun or grabbed for the gun. According to White, that’s when the gun accidentally went off shooting young Daniel in the face at point blank range. The boys claim he deliberately pulled the trigger. Either way…Daniel Cicciaro is dead and two families have been devastated.
As if that wasn’t enough, there is more to this story. A Grand Jury failed to indict John White on murder charges, however, they did indict on a weapons charge and Second Degree Manslaughter. A jury, after hearing the testimony, deliberated for four days before rendering a guilty verdict last December. Even that wasn’t free of controversy, as two of the jurors later reported that they had been bullied and pressured by other jurors to agree with their findings.
While the family and friends of Daniel Ciccirao were happy with the verdict, the sentencing was a whole other story. Judge Kahn cited White’s clean record and the role that the victim, himself, played in this tragedy, as she sentenced John White to two to four years in prison, eliciting a vile outburst by Daniel Ciccirao, Sr.
“Fuck you!” he screamed at the defendant’s wife and son. "Does this mean as long as you are black and there is a problem at the end of your driveway you can shoot my son in the face?" Cicciaro shouted.
"Let's see what happens when Aaron White gets shot! Let's see what the laws are then!"
Calling the defense attorney’s “opportunistic race-baiters” and claiming that they had attempted to paint his son as a bigot, during the trial, Cicciaro had told White that “even the death penalty would be a light punishment for you.”
His vitriol resulted in the police providing extra protection for the family of John White.
Earlier, amid suggestions that young Dano might have come from a racist upbringing, it was noted that, Joanne Cicciaro, who by name and appearance and accent might be assumed to have come from one of the many Italian-American families that moved to Suffolk County in recent decades from the boroughs, is actually Puerto Rican—a fact brought up to reporters by the Cicciaros in countering any implications of racism in Dano’s upbringing. (“Our family is multicultural.”)
But, the story doesn’t end here. As a matter of fact, it has the promise of taking on wings of it’s own propelled by the racist underbelly in our society.
Upon hearing the outraged Cicciaro, Sr. at the announcement of the sentencing, a rather bedraggled and beleagured group of hate-mongers began to rally around the Cicciaro family as they see their tragedy and their outrage as a vehicle by which to send their message of white oppression and injustice into the homes of other white Americans.
This type of shameless exploitation is nothing new for the racist movement. The continuous and often delusional hope that somewhere, some white person will publically validate the hate-filled and acrimonious idelology which they ascribe to, has become commonplace among those who continue to perpetuate racism.
Additionally, they often find that “validation” in a comment or a phrase uttered which was in no way intended to present any such justification. That, however, is one of the pitfalls of being in the throes of desperation.
In a thread, cunningly entitled, “White Father Responds Like White Man Over Light Sentence Given to Nigger!” the VNN Forum has largely abandoned the wholesale verbal slaughtering of each other to rally the troops around the Cicciaro family.
Somehow, they located the telephone numbers of the Cicciaro family and began a campaign to console them, to demonstrate that there are other white people who feel the same way that they do, and, as one poster said, to inform them that,
“What Daniel Cicciaro Sr., the boys father, needs to be aware of, more than anything else, is that the Jews let this nigger off, the Jewish judge, the Jewish prosecutor, and the Jewish media.”
After a few described phone calls made to the family, a claim was made that the parents are willing to do interviews that will help them “draw publicity to their plight,” indicating that the white supremacists may have, once again, found another victim to exploit. Of course, the acceptance of the parents is not a prerequisite to this exploitation. When the racists determine to dance on the graves of others – they do so without hesitation.
Daniele “Dano” Cicciaro, Jr. is dead. This tragic tale is but one of many that can be recanted by parents across our nation. Like most of them, the story raises many questions. Where were the parents while under-aged drinking was occurring at their home? Why did the sister of Craig Martin wait nine months to tell someone that she was threatened with rape? Why, when it was found that Michael Longo was the one who had put up the fake MySpace page, didn’t he tell the other boys that it was him and not Aaron? Why, indeed, did the boys not leave when they were told to do so at the point of a gun?
These are questions that most sensible people wonder about while others consider how they can capitalize on the anguish felt by the slain victim’s family. Like vultures they circulate overhead hoping that the fruit below will yield a sumptuous meal.
The community is divided, not just about race, but more about what they would have done in a similar situation. John White was born into a family already rife with fear. His grandfather, whose gun he used, moved the family from Alabama after the Ku Klux Klan came to his home in the dead of night.
The lights shining into his front windows on a late night in August along with the racial and hurtful words being shouted by 5 drunken young men, couldn’t help but renew the fears of the story that had been indelibly imprinted on his psyche. What was he to do, as five young men threatened he and his family? At fifty-four, a diabetic, and fearful for his life and that of his son, was John White justified in pulling a firearm? How far can one go to protect his property and his family?
These are the questions that plague many in Long Island tonight. And while the racists dream of a Cicciaro Family coming forth and joining them in waging war on African-Americans and Jewish judges and prosecutors, the rest of us will give our children an extra kiss and a tighter hug on their way to bed and give thanks that we haven’t had to make the decision that John White was faced with and that, unlike the Cicciaro’s, our children are secure in their slumber.