Some Local News: Race and Shinnecock in the Courts

some local news from Newsday:,0,2288144.column

Issue of race permeates manslaughter trial

Joye Brown
December 13, 2007

You can't run from race at the trial of John White, a black man charged with shooting a white teen in the face in front of White's dream home in the suburbs. Given the reality of life on Long Island, it would be silly even to try.

Race permeates the manslaughter trial, as it does day to day life in Nassau and Suffolk - and not just because the region is one of the most racially segregated in the United States.

At the courthouse in Riverhead, you can see race as you walk into the courtroom.

Most whites sit on one side, most blacks sit on the other. Early in the trial, the Nation of Islam made an appearance; so has 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care, and black and white members of local NAACP chapters.

You can hear race, from the prosecutor and defense attorneys, as they go about reading transcripts and questioning witnesses:

The word nigger - and please accept my apologies, but n-----, N-word and N-bomb just don't tell it like it is - was caught on 911 tapes, as a car of frantic teenagers carried their fatally wounded friend, 17-year-old Daniel Cicciaro Jr., to the hospital.

John White's wife, Sonia, said she heard the word coming from her son's cell phone; flinching, visibly, as it fell from her lips in testimony yesterday.

And a threat-filled transcript of a 34-minute-long instant messaging session between Aaron and another teenager offered as evidence yesterday included the word 13 times (with a "cotton picker" tossed in, for good measure).

You can even laugh at race, as many in the courtroom did yesterday when White's neighbor, Gary Greene, told how he approached police outside White's house the night of the shooting.

"I put my hands up," said Greene, a very big black man whose awesome house (judging from a photo projected onto a screen) has an awesome backyard pool. "I didn't want any misunderstanding."

Everybody in the courtroom knew what he meant.

"This case is the trial of the century in Suffolk County," Lucius Ware, 74, an NAACP official who has lived in Southampton for almost 40 years, told me during a break yesterday.

"The case is important to Long Island in the 21st century because we all know, instinctively, that things would be different had two carloads of young black men invaded a quiet neighborhood at 11 o'clock at night."

In his first published interview after the incident - with my former Newsday colleague, Paul Vitello - John White didn't mention race.

Neither did his attorney or the police or the district attorney's office, and Cicciaro's family mentioned, frequently, that Daniel had friends of all races. And yet racial tension doesn't just live, but thrives in the trial.

The cornerstone of the defense now is that John White was protecting himself, his property and his family against a lynch mob.

That's race.

The prosecutor, reading Aaron White's words from the IM transcript, more than once fell into a mimic of a black voice.

That's race.

And yesterday, the defense raised the racial animus and threats against Aaron White's life - from another teenager - as the reason White's testimony in the trial differed so much from his testimony before a grand jury.

That's race, too.

What didn't come out in court testimony was that the IM threats, according to a police document, "did not constitute a hate crime."

A teenager is dead, and it's hard to watch his grieving parents in the courtroom. A father faces a potential prison term; it's hard to watch his family, too.

A jury will decide what happens, but this much we know already.

The race issue, which divided Long Island before the trial - and has so divided this courtroom - will keep dividing neighbors, long after the John White jury goes home.


Jury in shooting case has choice of two verdicts


December 18 2007, 8:32 PM EST

A jury will have the option of convicting John White of a misdemeanor
-- rather than a felony -- for the shooting death of Daniel Cicciaro
Jr., a Suffolk County judge ruled Tuesday.

The complete article can be viewed at:,0,2112266.story

Shinnecocks irked by Southampton blocking casino


December 18 2007

Tribal Trustees of the Shinnecock Indian tribe yesterday charged that
Southampton Town was committing "cultural genocide" by insisting that
the residentially-zoned land should be used only to build houses.

The complete article can be viewed at:,0,7688568.story

Dismissal of Indian smoke shop suit still burns


December 7 2007

A federal judge's recent dismissal of several claims in a lawsuit
alleging Unkechaug and Shinnecock Indian smoke shops violated racketeering
laws by selling untaxed cigarettes has not been a cause for celebration
on either side.

The complete article can be viewed at:,0,3043310.story