Mimi Rosenberg interviewed Fred Brewington, the day after Christmas, for the WBAI program, Wakeup Call (99.5FM). Mr. Brewington is the attorney for John White, recently convicted of manslaughter while defending his family in Suffolk County. White remains free on bail until sentencing, when he could face a prison term of five to 15 years.
If you’ve read the listing of the thousands of African-Americans lynched and murdered by white mobs in the December 16th Our Time Press, then you can put yourself in the place of a man confronted by what Attorney Brewington describes. (Also available online at wbai.org, Wakeup Call, Archive, Wednesday, December 26, 8:00am.)
Mr. Brewington: Back in August 9th of 2006, Aaron White, the son of John White, who at that time was 18 years or 19 years of age, was home from college and went out to dinner with a friend of his. After dinner, they decided they were going to look for a party, and they called around and they found out that there was a party at the home of a young man by the name of Craig Martin.
They went to the house and the party had underage drinking going on and people were to a level of inebriation where Aaron testified that people were stumbling around.
He happened to be the only African-American there at that party in Suffolk County. The sister of the host said to her brother and to Daniel Cicciaro, Jr. that she didn’t feel comfortable with Aaron being there. It turns out that one of Aaron’s friends and another young man had done a prank using MySpace to put up a fake MySpace, to put up a fake profile on this young lady’s MySpace indicating that Aaron wanted to do bad things to her in a sexual way. It was not true. Aaron had denied it, and this had happened some 8 months before. For whatever reason, this young lady decided that she wanted some attention, and then made a big stink that Aaron should leave the party and Aaron was asked to leave the party by Daniel Cicciaro and he left.
Mimi: Fred, this posting that you’re talking about was 8 months before the party?
Mr. Brewington: Absolutely. And it was known and clear that it was not Aaron who had written this, it was another individual who claimed to be his friend and did it as a prank. But even so, it still continued to resonate during the party. One of the things that’s important is that this young lady had seen Aaron at least two times before at a shopping mall and at a basketball game and said nothing to anyone about this incident. But apparently, this young lady, who happened to be about 4 years younger than everybody else, either wanted attention or whatever her reasons for this comment. Now you should know that not only was Aaron the only African-American at this party, but the young lady that made this comment was a young white girl.
So anyhow, Aaron was asked to leave the party. He left with no concerns. He did not argue. He said, This is not my home so therefore I will respect your request. He said he didn’t understand why, because he was not told why at the time and went home. Immediately after leaving, apparently the alcohol started taking affect on people and name-calling started to occur. And we know this because one of the people who came to the party with Aaron remained there, a young white man, and he was able to tell Aaron that they were referring to him using the N-word. They were saying that they wanted to kick his behind, using another word of course. And then he called Aaron saying, “Don’t come back to this party because they’re gonna jump you. They’re going to beat you up. They’re talking about ganging up on you.”
Well, this young man, Daniel Cicciaro, asked for the number of Aaron, was able to get it, called Aaron on the phone and threatened him, telling him that he was going to kill him and how dare he; who did he think he was making these types of comments. And he called, he said she was his sister, even though it really was not his sister, he was now taking on that mantle of protecting this young woman’s virtues against this African-American man.
Two carloads of young men ended up going to the home of Aaron White at 11:30 at night. They drove up and down the cul-de-sac where he lived, roaring their engines using the modern-day muscle cars as though they were horse-drawn wagons, making all types of noise, driving the cars up into the driveway, one of the cars’ headlights beaming onto the house, and called on the phone again and basically told Aaron, “Come out the house. If you don’t come out the house we’re gonna kill you” and a number of comments to that affect.
Well, in the house Aaron was scared to death. He woke his father up. He told his father, John White, that “These guys are coming here, Dad. They’re going to beat me. They’re going to kill me.” And John White was dead asleep, and when he woke his father up and eventually stirred him, John said, “What’s going on?” And he said, “Dad, these guys are coming here to kill me.” And John immediately jumped up, saw lights beaming on his house and went to his closet first to get a shotgun to chase them away. He decided the shotgun was not appropriate. In his testimony, he said that it was just too much. He didn’t want to go out there with a big long gun like that. And then he started to go out the house, and as he was going out he reached on the top shelf in his home, in the garage, for a small handgun to use to chase these gentlemen away.
Unbeknownst to him, Aaron had also picked up the shotgun and went behind him and as he went down the driveway he noticed that Aaron was standing behind him. Aaron indicated that he did not want his father to go out alone, he claims because he was old and skinny and was afraid that these boys would hurt him. The situation then went to the point where when they walked down the driveway of their home, that these young men began to holler and scream racial epithets, referring to Mr. White using the N-word saying that they were going to kill him, that they were going to rape him and his wife, telling Aaron that he was an f___ing n and other types of things, threatening them physically. Mr. White continually said “Leave.” These young boys told Mr. White, who at that time was some 53 years of age, “Who the hell do you think you are?” And they gave him no respect. They gave him no indication that they recognized that he was an adult figure. Mr. White eventually was able to view this as being something that he was going to wait for the police to come because as he had left the house he asked his wife Sonya to call the police. She, unfortunately, was in such a state of mind that she was so afraid she says that she did not hear him say that, although Aaron, who was in the house at that time, did hear him. So as he turned to go back in the house, this young man, Daniel Cicciaro, who was screaming and hollering and apparently was the flashpoint for this situation, was the instigator of everything, began to stalk Mr. White as he went up the driveway, reached for the gun, tried to grab it out of Mr. White’s hand as it was pointed down toward the ground and when he pulled it back toward him the bullet was ejected from the gun hitting Cicciaro in his left cheek and the bullet went up and lodged into his brain slightly above the right ear.
It’s a very unfortunate, tragic situation. But in this situation, Mr. White, who had a history in his family of people being lynched and the Ku Klux Klan coming to the home to burn people out, really thought that in the isolated situation that he feels on Miller Place in Suffolk County, that he and his family were in danger. And the jury failed to recognize any aspect of that. His history, his knowledge, his feelings, his concern for his family were of no importance to them because they essentially just wiped out 400 years of history.
Mimi: How can people be supportive of Mr. White and his family?
Mr. Brewington: Well, two things: One, I think that people should know that John White has enormous expenses in terms of buying transcripts; in terms of dealing with the costs involved with this. So there is a defense fund: The John White Legal Defense Fund, or John White LDF, and they’re accepting contributions. Anybody who would like to do that can mail it to my office and I will get it to the accountant who is overseeing the legal defense fund. My office and my name is Fred Brewington. The address is 50 Clinton Street, Suite 501, Hempstead, NY 11550.