Flanked by his wife and sons, last week John White reported to the courtroom of the Honorable Barbara Kahn in the Suffolk County Court. He began his sentence of 2-4 years resulting from the incident in which John White was defending his family and home from a mob of drunken teens. That incident resulted in the death of one of those teens.
Noel Leader, along with other members of 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care, escorted John White and his family to the court “because of the sensitivity of the case and threats made to him, his wife and sons.” Leader said, “Members of our organization picked the family up at their house and had the unfortunate task of escorting him to the courthouse, where he was then taken into custody to complete his sentence.”
Describing the mood of the family, Leader said “Surprisingly, John was more upbeat than all of us were. Because of the magnitude of the injustice to him as well as his family, we all were sad. He was very upbeat. He knew what he did was the right thing to do. He had nothing to hang his head in shame over. He was sad over the fact that he was going to miss his wife and children.”
According to Leader, John White’s “sons were, of course, very sad. They know that they are going to miss their father for the next couple of years unless Governor David Paterson does the right thing and grants clemency or a pardon.”
Someone close to the family said John White could not submit a clemency application until White was in custody inside the prison.
John White has exhausted all appeals on the state level. Since that last state appeal was rejected, something occurred to give the family additional hope. The U.S. Supreme Court decided in McDonald v. City of Chicago that the Second Amendment, which protects the right to bear arms for the purpose of self-defense, also applies to the states (not just the District of Columbia, as decided in the Heller case). The family will need to raise funds to start a federal lawsuit.
“Everyone who is familiar with the facts of this case knows that we are not holding our heads down for John. He did nothing wrong,” Leader said. “All of us will miss him. All of us share the unfortunate time he will now serve in prison. Right now, what everyone is pinning their hopes on is the governor intervening.”
The weapon involved in the incident was a family heirloom. It originally belonged to Napoleon White, John’s grandfather. According to family history, the White family was chased out of Oneonta, Alabama in 1929. One night the Klan came to the family home to get someone in the family. Napoleon White was able to defend the family and get most of them out. The Klan set the house on fire. One of John’s aunts was not able to get out. She died in the fire. In the aftermath, the White family split up. Some settled in Cleveland, others in Georgia. John White’s branch of the family landed in New York.