The reason a Brentwood man committed no crime when he beat a man to death outside a Huntington bar three years ago was that he was defending himself against an aggressor, his attorney argued Thursday to a jury in Riverhead.
But Assistant District Attorney Daryl Levy told jurors that Samuel White, 35, was guilty of first-degree manslaughter because he intended to cause serious physical injury to Edwin Rivera, 39, of Bay Shore when he punched and kicked Rivera in the head and that his attack on Rivera continued well past the point of defending himself.
The jury deliberated for about an hour and a half. It viewed a surveillance video of the May 25, 2016 fight, asked to see video of White’s interrogation by homicide detectives and asked state Supreme Court Justice William Condon to review the law on self-defense and manslaughter.
But first, jurors heard defense attorney Christopher Gioe and Levy argue their views of the case. The fight happened after Valerie Holloway, the woman White was out with that night, texted and called her ex-boyfriend, Rivera, to tell him she was out with another man and where. Both sides agree Rivera came looking for them and initiated the confrontation, but they differed on what happened after Rivera got out of his Mercedes-Benz and advanced toward White.
“Quite frankly, ladies and gentlemen, he was justified in defending himself,” Gioe said of his client. In the moment, Gioe said White was taken by surprise and had no idea who Rivera was or what could happen next.
Only Holloway knew what was going happen, Gioe said.
“She lured Eddie to that scene,” Gioe said. “She is morally responsible for that whole situation.”
The fight took all of 15 seconds, he said — not enough to define what kind of man White is.
“That’s about the time it takes to tie one of your shoes,” he said. “That’s the time it takes you to compose a text message to one of your loved ones and press send.”
It’s not enough time, Gioe said, to think about when to stop swinging. “Once the threat was neutralized, what did Sammy do? He walked away,” Gioe said.
White’s distraught demeanor after he turned himself into police is also telling, Gioe said. “The whole video shows who he is,” he said.
Levy argued the fight is what defines White.
“Fifteen seconds,” he said. “He took a life in 15 seconds.”
He dismissed the idea that White’s life was in danger from the larger and heavier Rivera, describing the physically fit White as “180 pounds of pure rock.”
He compared Rivera’s battered face, numerous broken facial bones and collapsed airway to White after the fight.
“Show me a single mark on this man’s body that shows this was the fight of his life,” Levy said, who then showed an autopsy photo of Rivera’s face to the jury. “You don’t get to do this because someone punched your shoulder,” referring to the first blow of the fight, landed by Rivera.
Levy said it wasn’t smart of Holloway to instigate the confrontation, but that didn’t make Rivera’s death her fault.
“One person is responsible for the death of Eddie Rivera and he’s sitting in that chair,” Levy said, pointing at White. Only the defendant “beat someone so badly they choked on their own blood and died,” Levy said.
If White was in fear of Rivera, Levy said what he could have and should have done was just leave. White was standing next to his unlocked BMW when Rivera pulled up. Levy said nothing prevented him from getting in, locking the door and driving away.
Instead, Levy said White continued hitting and kicking Rivera even after he was on the ground.
“His actions do not show that he was afraid of anything,” Levy said. And Rivera’s injuries show what White’s intent was — to hurt Rivera badly, Levy said.
“This is rage,” Levy said. “This is anger. This is proving a point.”
And while Levy said he doesn’t doubt that White is sorry for Rivera’s death, that doesn’t wipe away the fact of the crime.
“You don’t get credit for crying,” Levy said. “You don’t get credit for apologizing.”