Last year, Michael White was arrested for stabbing Sean Schellenger to death during a chance confrontation in Rittenhouse Square. Schellenger was stabbed in the back as he attempted to disarm White. Accordingly, White was initially and properly charged with first-degree murder.
But then Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner, the self-described “public defender with power,” dropped the first-degree murder charge, despite the clear inference of murderous intent raised by White’s use of a knife on a vital part of Schellenger’s body. This left the severely reduced charges of third-degree murder and manslaughter. Then, on the eve of trial, Krasner reduced the charges further, to manslaughter alone.
According to Linda Schellenger, the victim’s mother, when she met pre-trial with Krasner to respectfully question his handling of the case, he became angry and screamed at her. In a national television interview she also accused Krasner of suppressing evidence found on social media of the assailant declaring before the attack on her son that he was going to “cut someone” and afterward rapping about “blood in the streets.”
The case proceeded to trial, and White was acquitted of manslaughter but convicted and sentenced to probation on a misdemeanor charge of tampering with evidence based on his disposal of the knife he used to stab the victim.
As if Krasner’s mistreatment of Linda Schellenger and aborting the prosecution’s case weren’t bad enough, last week he sank even lower.
Michael White was scheduled to be part of a panel that included the chief public defender and a representative of the American Civil Liberties Union. Their topic? Be the Loudest Voice in the Room: A Discussion of Disruption and Advocacy.
On Friday, Chestnut Hill College hosted an event titled the Transforming Justice Conference, described in promotional materials as a “conversation on the current state of the criminal justice system to include the inequities in the system, the barriers to reintegration, and strategies for improvement.” Among the featured speakers were Mayor Jim Kenney, Chief Public Defender Keir Bradford-Grey, District Attorney Larry Krasner, and, wait for it … Michael White. Yes, the same Michael White who killed Sean Schellenger.
According to the conference agenda, White was scheduled to be part of a panel that included the chief public defender and a representative of the American Civil Liberties Union. Their topic? Be the Loudest Voice in the Room: A Discussion of Disruption and Advocacy.
Linda Schellenger told me she decided to go as soon as she learned of the conference. She sat in the front row. When Krasner saw her, she reports, he became agitated. He offered no words of regret regarding the outcome of her son’s mishandled case or any explanation as to why he was willing to be part of a conference with the man who had killed her son.
Moreover, at the time of the conference, White had already repeatedly missed meetings with his probation officer and was due back in court to explain those absences. Meaning that White and the district attorney were to be conference co-participants at the same time Krasner’s office was still in a position to prosecute White for violating the terms of his probation.
In the end, White did not take part in the conference. Linda Schellenger believes her presence had something to do with that decision. A shame, really. It would have been interesting to hear his thoughts on being the “Loudest Voice in the Room.” I am sure he would have had plenty to say about his experience in transforming justice.
Of course there was another person prevented from participating who could have imparted useful insights about the state of the criminal justice system. That would be Sean Schellenger, the young man who died from a stab in the back.
But his voice, far from being the loudest in the room, has been stilled forever.