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Jury deliberates case of Internet hoax that led to deadly shooting

  • Story Highlights
  • A bogus Internet threat may have led to 17-year-old's death
  • Shooting followed confrontation between Daniel Cicciaro and Aaron White
  • Aaron White's father is charged with aggravated manslaughter
  • Defense attorneys say John White feared a racial attack before the shooting
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By Susan Chun
CNN
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RIVERHEAD, New York (CNN) -- The tragic story that began with a sick joke on the Internet is coming to a close as a Riverhead, New York, jury deliberates the fate of 53-year-old John White, on trial for killing a friend of his son.

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A bogus threat of rape on the Internet may have led to the shooting death of 17-year-old Daniel Cicciaro.

White is accused of shooting 17-year old Daniel Cicciaro in the face on August 9, 2006, outside his Long Island home after a heated exchange with Cicciaro and his friends.

Cicciaro died that night, and White was arrested. He is charged with second-degree manslaughter.

The trial has brought out allegations of racism and revenge. White, who is African-American, maintains he was protecting his family from a white lynch mob and says the gun discharged accidentally.

Prosecutors disagree, saying White should have called police but instead deliberately chose to confront the boys outside his home with a .32-caliber Beretta. Video Watch Cicciaro's parents recall son's death »

Riverhead police say this all started with an Internet prank sent from the MySpace page of White's son, 20-year-old Aaron. Under his screen name, a threatening message was sent to a teenage girl who was a close friend of Daniel Cicciaro.

The night Cicciaro was killed, he was at a party with the girl when they spotted Aaron White. According to court testimony, Cicciaro became angry and White was asked to leave. Aaron White testified that after he left the party, Cicciaro and a male friend called him on his cell phone, saying to him, "Get back to this party you n****r."

Aaron White says he then went home and received more calls from Cicciaro and his friends, telling him they were coming to his house to kill him. He then woke his father, who grabbed his handgun and waited for the boys to arrive.

Police say that around 11 p.m., Cicciaro and four friends arrived at White's house. John and Aaron White walked out of their house, both holding guns, and had a heated exchange with Cicciaro and his friends. John White asked the boys to leave.

Then, police say, John White shot Cicciaro at point-blank range. Cicciaro died in the emergency room that night.

But the rape threat that sparked the confrontation between Daniel Cicciaro and Aaron White was not real. Under testimony, Aaron White's friend Michael Longo admitted he logged on to Aaron's MySpace page and sent the threat to the girl as a joke.

Daniel Cicciaro's mother, Joanne Cicciaro, says her son was trying to protect the girl. "The thing is, that night, Daniel believed Aaron threatened to rape a girl that was like his little sister," Cicciaro said.

During the trial, which lasted three weeks and ended Tuesday, John White broke down in tears. He testified, "I didn't mean to shoot this young man. This young man was another child of God."

White's attorneys say that racism lies at the heart of the confrontation and that John White feared Cicciaro and his friends were going to kill his son.

"You had this group of white men who felt that they were going to defend this young white woman from a black man who said these things about her, and they felt justified to do so because of his race," said defense attorney Fred Brewington.

But Daniel Cicciaro's father, also named Daniel, says he doesn't believe White's story. "He had 20 minutes to gather his thoughts, to call the police to defuse the situation, to find out why they were coming over, and he didn't take any of the precautionary steps" he said.

"The Whites, none of them, ever called 9-1-1, even after he shot Daniel, but he did call their attorney," Joanne Cicciaro added.

With tears in their eyes, Daniel and Joanne Cicciaro say their last image of their son was in the hospital, drenched in blood and being given CPR.

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"I saw the hole in his cheek. I got to tell him that I loved him," Joanne Cicciaro said. "I saw his blank eyes open, staring at the ceiling."

Friends and supporters of both the Whites and the Cicciaros have attended the trial daily, which presented its case to the jury Tuesday. The jury finished its second day of deliberations Thursday with no verdict. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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