RIVERHEAD, N.Y. (AP) – John White grew up hearing stories from family members about the racial hatred of the Deep South, including the Ku Klux Klan’s torching of his grandfather’s business in Alabama in the 1920s.

So when white teenagers showed up on his Long Island doorstep last year, spewing racial epithets in a fight with his son, White said he feared he was about to be attacked by a lynch mob. He grabbed a gun and, after an argument with the group, fatally shot one of the teens.

Soon, a jury will consider whether White, a 54-year-old asphalt foreman, should be convicted of manslaughter or a lesser charge in the death of 17-year-old Daniel Cicciaro. Closing arguments were scheduled for Tuesday.

The case has been playing out in a Long Island courtroom over the last three weeks, marked by White’s emotional testimony as he recalled memories of racial violence from his family’s past. He recalled seeing the headlights of the teenagers’ cars on that night in 2006, and thinking the worst.

“In my family history, that’s how the Klan comes,” White said. “They pull up. They blind you with their lights.” He broke down in tears on the podium, insisting: “I didn’t mean to shoot this young man. This young man was another child of God.”

He contends the weapon – a pistol handed down to him by his grandfather – discharged accidentally. The victim’s family argues the teen was shot down in cold blood.

Prosecutors say White should have simply locked the door and called police – and not gone outside to confront the teenagers with a gun.

The trouble apparently started on Aug. 9, 2006, when White’s son Aaron was asked to leave a beer bash at a friend’s home after a female guest complained about a bogus MySpace posting claiming Aaron wanted to rape her.

Although White denied making the threat, he complied and left the party. Cicciaro and his friends subsequently called the teenager on his cell phone to continue the dispute, allegedly making threats that culminated when they arrived at the White home shortly after 11 p.m.

Some of the teenagers continued to hurl racial epithets once at the home, and the younger White conceded that he responded with profanity-laced responses of his own.

John White initially grabbed a shotgun from his house, but put it in a closet and instead opted to grab the pistol from the garage. Aaron took the shotgun and followed his father to the end of the driveway to confront the teens.

Cicciaro, who had a blood-alcohol reading above the legal limit for driving, was just 3 three inches from the pistol when he was shot in the face, a medical examiner testified.

White was initially charged with second-degree murder, which could have carried a prison term of 25 years to life, but a grand jury later indicted him on a lesser charge of manslaughter, which carries a possible 15-year prison term.

On Tuesday, Suffolk County Court Judge Barbara Kahn granted a request that would allow the jury to consider convicting White of reckless endangerment, a misdemeanor that carries a prison term of up to 4 years.

AP-ES-12-18-07 1650EST


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