What’s the penalty for killing a white man in Philadelphia? It could be probation.
Michael White, a black man, killed white real estate developer Sean Schellenger on July 12, 2018. Schellenger was arguing with another man when White — who had nothing to do with the argument — stopped and told Schellenger he didn’t “need to be a tough guy.” Mr. White claims Schellenger then said he would “beat the black off” of him. According to Mr. White’s own testimony, Mr. White then pulled a knife. Schellenger reportedly charged and put him in a bear hug. Mr. White stabbed Schellenger in the back, pulled out the knife, and ran away.
Last October, a jury acquitted Mr. White of voluntary manslaughter. In January, a judge sentenced him to two years probation for “tampering with evidence” because Mr. White threw the knife onto a roof after he ran away.
In court, the defense put the victim on trial. It dwelt on Schellenger’s cocaine use, drinking, and fighting, including an alleged dustup with a bouncer 11 years ago. Mr. Schellenger was drunk when he fought Mr. White.
The defense also explained away a seemingly damning note Mr. White had written to someone on his cell phone nine days before the killing: “Don’t **** me off. You’ll get cut, n***er.” His lawyers argued that “cut” simply meant “to make insults” because that is how Mr. White — who claims to be a “slam poet” — talks. On the stand, Mr. White said he had no intention of killing Mr. Schellenger; that he was just defending himself.
The defense’s most devious tactic was making the trial about race. Mr. White’s defense lawyer, Keir Bradford-Grey, told The Philadelphia Tribune that she appealed directly to black women jurors: “Black women understand Black boys because they have raised them. They were not listening to what the media was saying about the case.”
Mr. White claimed that one of Schellenger’s friends, Norris Jordan, made a “racist” remark before the fight. Mr. Jordan forcefully denies this, and no other witness heard it. Mr. Jordan also says he didn’t hear Schellenger’s alleged threat to “beat the black” off of Mr. White.
Other blacks have successfully used the racism defense. In 2017, Florida dropped murder charges against a black man who beat a white man to death over a racial slur. Last August, a Michigan judge overturned a black man’s murder conviction because of claims that a juror used a racial slur during deliberations.
The Schellenger family did not like the way the prosecutor handled the case. “This was manufactured by Larry Krasner from the outset. We were never represented. Our views were never represented, everything we asked for went the other way,” Mark Schellenger, the victim’s father, told local media. “He [my son] is supposed to be the victim but he was put on trial there. He was trashed.” Linda Schellenger, the mother, believes Mr. Krasner should be “arrested for corruption” and that he “obstructed justice,” though media reports do not explain the specifics of her complaint.
After his manslaughter acquittal — but conviction for tampering with evidence — Mr. White failed to show up for four out of six required meetings with his probation officer. He is also awaiting trial for stealing a bike.
Mr. Krasner is one of the nation’s most prominent “progressive” prosecutors. Before becoming DA, he sued police 75 times and called law enforcement “systematically racist.” When he won election in 2017, his supporters chanted “F*** the FOP [Fraternal Order of Police]” and “no good cops in a racist system.” Last year, Mr. Krasner said he would bar police officers who made offensive Facebook posts from testifying in criminal trials.
William McSwain, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, said last August that Mr. Krasner promotes a “culture of disrespect for law enforcement.” He also claims Mr. Krasner told him in an April 2018 meeting that the whole criminal justice system is racist and corrupt.
Mr. Krasner made several “reforms” that encourage crime. He ordered prosecutors to stop prosecuting for marijuana possession — no matter what the quantity. He made shoplifting $500 — which had been a misdemeanor — a summary offense, which is the lowest grade of crime. He decriminalized prostitution, and told prosecutors to seek the lowest possible sentences for “non-violent” crimes; they need authorization from him to ask for tougher sentences.
Under Mr. Krasner, sentencing requests must include an analysis of the costs of locking up criminals — $42,000 a year — compared to probation. This encourages lighter sentences. Mr. Krasner also tells prosecutors to reduce cash bail and go easy on certain probation violations. Failing to attend a parole meeting will not longer be punished with jail time, so it’s not surprising the court didn’t punish Mr. White for playing hooky.
One of Mr. Krasner’s coddle cases is Maalik Jackson-Wallace. He was arrested twice for gun possession. He was let out on the street both times. Now he’s finally used that gun and is accused of murder.
Mr. Krasner has been top prosecutor since 2017. Gun violence was up 34 percent in 2019 alone, and homicides are up 40 percent since 2013. Last year, the campus police at University of Pennsylvania reported retail theft around the campus was up 18 percent over the previous year.
Mr. Krasner’s policies benefit criminals and hurt law-abiding citizens. Watch your back in Philadelphia; if you are attacked, you could be the one on trial.