Michael White, the 22-year-old man acquitted of manslaughter in the highly contentious Philadelphia stabbing of a real estate developer, was sentenced Thursday morning to two years of probation for a related tampering with evidence charge.
The sentence closes another chapter in the fatal 2018 Rittenhouse Square stabbing of Sean Schellenger, a case that gripped the city.
“I’m just happy this part of my life is over and I that I can focus on the future, working hard to be the person I always envisioned myself to be," White said outside the courtroom. He added that he continues to pray for Schellenger's family.
White’s 2019 acquittal on voluntary manslaughter charges came after Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner had lowered the original 3rd-degree murder charges against him, a decision that sparked outrage from Schellenger’s family.
The Schellenger family was not in the courtroom Thursday, but Sean Schellenger's mother sent a statement to NBC10 saying that the family's own sentence began when her son was stabbed.
"The [Michael White] sentencing is, hopefully, the last episode in Krasner’s finely orchestrated obstruction of justice," she said. "We have endured enough pain at the hand of The Killer, The DA and Bradford-Grey," she continued, referencing Philadelphia Chief Public Defender Keir Bradford-Gray.
"Sean Schellenger was intelligent, articulate, successful and kind and no one can ever take those qualities away from him or us!" Schellenger's mother said.
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In his October 2019 trial, White was also found not guilty on weapons and obstruction charges. However, he was found guilty on a charge of tampering with evidence for later tossing the knife.
Jurors at the time reached their decision after roughly 8 hours of deliberating whether White intended for Schellenger to die when he stabbed him in the back during a violent scuffle.
In the end, the 12-person jury found that prosecutors had not met their burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that White acted in anything but self-defense.
The case was closely watched throughout Philadelphia, highlighting issues well beyond the crime itself.
Schellenger’s family accused the DA’s office of victim blaming, a complaint that resurfaced throughout the trial from prosecutors themselves. Assistant District Attorney Sherrell Dandy said White’s defense team emphasized the victim’s behavior more than his death. Schellenger’s cocaine use, heavy drinking and even past fights were introduced as evidence against the one person who could not defend himself in court, Dandy said during closing statements.
But White's supporters argued that he feared for his life after Schellenger threatened to "beat the black off him." Character witnesses said he had a reputation for being peaceful and honest. Many people said they knew him from his work with the Philadelphia Poetry Youth Movement.
Bradford-Gray went furhter, saying the case was "about a lot of things: race, class."