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Cicciaro's father breaks his silence

Flowers are seen at Daniel Cicciaro Jr.'s grave

Flowers are seen at Daniel Cicciaro Jr.'s grave on Christmas morning at Washington Memorial Park in Mount Sinai. A handwritten quotation from John 15:13 reads, "Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends." (Dec. 25, 2010) Credit: Jim Staubitser

Two days after Gov. David A. Paterson freed John White from prison for a racially charged killing in Miller Place, the dead teenager’s father broke his silence on the controversy. When Daniel Cicciaro Sr. finally spoke about Paterson commuting White’s sentence, it was with a voice of resignation rather than anger.

“The day was going to come anyway,” Cicciaro told reporters gathered at the end of the private driveway at his Port Jefferson Station development at noon Saturday. “So whether it was now or a year from now, it is what is.”

Asked what he would say to the governor, who had not spoken to his family before commuting the sentence, or to White, Cicciaro replied cordially: “Enjoy your holiday.”

Cicciaro’s muted comments were in sharp contrast to his explosion in rage back in 2008, when White received a 2- to 4-year jail sentence that the family regarded as too lenient. Just before 3 p.m., Cicciaro arrived at Washington Memorial Park cemetery in Mount Sinai.

A Christmas wreath lay on the ground behind his son’s grave marker, and a ribbon attached carried a message from Cicciaro’s ex-wife, Joanne: “Merry Christmas in heaven my sweet baby. I miss you. Love Mom.”

Cicciaro, accompanied by two other men and a woman, spent 45 minutes at the grave, kneeling and hugging. The grave visit is a daily ritual for him, he said.

White, allowed to leave prison more than a year before his minimum sentence would have been up, spent a quiet Christmas at home with his family.

In the morning, White left the house to check his mail — up the same Miller Place driveway where he had his fatal 2006 confrontation with Daniel Cicciaro Jr. He told a reporter that he would be spending the holiday at home.

On Christmas Eve, White had gone to Faith Baptist Church in Coram, where he is a deacon, and recounted the day he learned that the governor had commuted his sentence to time served. He said he had been studying a part of the Scriptures that talks about Christ freeing prisoners.

White told worshipers he was been summoned Wednesday to the chapel of Mount McGregor Correctional Facility in upstate Wilton, where he had served about 168 days of his sentence. The chaplain and superintendent were waiting and the superintendent said, “ ‘First, I want you to breathe a little bit.’ He told me, ‘The governor has commuted you to time served with no probation. You can leave this facility tomorrow.’ And I praised God.”

Many church members had written state officials to support White’s bid for freedom. Their pastor, the Rev. Beresford Adams, told them: “We thank God for all his miracles, and we know that he answers prayers. This is the first of what we hope will be healing for both families. I thank the governor. He was courageous in what he did.”

After Paterson’s office announced the commutation Thursday, Paterson said Friday that he regretted not speaking with the Cicciaro family before making his decision. But he added he still would have commuted the sentence.

Paterson talked on the telephone with Joanne and Daniel Cicciaro Sr. on Friday morning for 55 minutes. His staff said Thursday that the governor was aware of the family’s statements about the case during White’s trial and sentencing.

Asked why he decided to commute White’s sentence, Paterson said Friday the judge’s decision not to impose the maximum sentence was “a signal to me . . . that his further incarceration . . . does not serve any public interest. I actually hope it would bring about peace in an area that does seem to have that kind of conflict.”

White, 57, who is black, was convicted of manslaughter for fatally shooting the younger Cicciaro, an unarmed white 17-year-old. The confrontation was set in motion after a Sound Beach party when Cicciaro Jr. and friends piled into cars to confront White’s son Aaron, 19, over an Internet message they mistakenly thought he had sent threatening to rape a girl.

John White testified his son woke him to say the teens were threatening to kill him. He went outside with a gun and ordered the teens to leave. Cicciaro was shot in the face. White testified he was turning to retreat when Cicciaro lunged for the gun.

In the cemetery Saturday, flowers and a teddy bear surrounded the recessed bronze marker of young Cicciaro, a sports car enthusiast who had graduated high school less than two months before his death.

The marker reads: “Daniel John Cicciario Jr. 10/28/88 — 8/10/06. Son of Daniel and Joanne. Brother of Nicholas. Loved by so many. May the wind be in your face as you drive on heaven’s raceways, drifting and pulling wheelies among the clouds with God’s peace, love and grace.”

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