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NY governor commutes prison sentence in fatal shooting

By Jesse Solomon, CNN
John White served about five months in prison before his second-degree manslaughter sentence was commuted.
John White served about five months in prison before his second-degree manslaughter sentence was commuted.
  • NEW: John White says of his sentence being commuted: "It's a blessed day"
  • Gov. Paterson said he wanted to lessen the suffering after "this tragic event"
  • John White shot Daniel Cicciaro in 2006 during an altercation at his home
  • The shooting stemmed from a dispute between White's son and a group of white youths

New York (CNN) -- Gov. David A. Paterson commuted the prison sentence Thursday of a man convicted of killing an unarmed teenage boy during a racially charged confrontation, officials said.

John White was convicted of second-degree manslaughter and third-degree criminal possession of a weapon in the shooting death of 17-year-old Daniel Cicciaro and was sentenced to up to four years in prison.

"It's a blessed day, it truly is," White told CNN affiliate WPIX. "I want to thank my savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. I also want to thank the governor for making this happen today."

He had served approximately five months in prison before Paterson allowed his release on Thursday, according to Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas J. Spota.

Paterson said in a written statement: "My decision today may be an affront to some and a joy to others, but my objective is only to seek to ameliorate the profound suffering that occurred as a result of this tragic event."

But the move was criticized by prosecutors who helped put White behind bars.

"I strongly believe the governor should have had the decency and the compassion to at least contact the victim's family to allow them to be heard before commuting the defendant's sentence," said Spota, whose office prosecuted White.

The shooting occurred in August 2006 in the Long Island town of Miller Place, after a group of teenagers went to White's home over a dispute with his 19-year-old son.

White, who is African-American, said that he was protecting his family from a white lynch mob and the gun discharged accidentally.

Prosecutors said White should have called police instead of deliberately choosing to confront Cicciaro and a group of his friends with a .32-caliber Beretta.

Police said the incident started with an internet prank sent by another person from the MySpace page of White's 20-year-old son.