PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A jury found 22-year-old Michael White not guilty of voluntary manslaughter in the July 2018 Rittenhouse Square fatal stabbing of real estate developer Sean Schellenger.
White was also found not guilty of possession of an instrument of a crime but was convicted of tampering with evidence. The jury deliberated for seven hours over the course of two days before reaching a verdict.
As the not guilty verdict was read, audible sighs of relief could be heard from White’s family. But it was followed by Schellenger’s mother, Linda, standing up and telling the judge she wants Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner arrested.
Not guilty on manslaughter.
Guilty of tampering with evidence https://t.co/vYKULrnqjQ
— Matt Petrillo (@MattPetrillo) October 17, 2019
Sean Schellenger’s mother reacted quickly after hearing Michael White was found not guilty of voluntary manslaughter.
“How about it Larry Krasner. How about it Mayor [Jim] Kenney. You’re both a bunch of trash and need to go. People start listening, these are the people you’re electing, that are allowing people to be killed. Did Larry care about the six shootings the other night in North Philly? He doesn’t even know. He doesn’t even give a sh–, ” she said.
Warning this video contains strong language.
When the ‘not guilty’ verdict was read, Schellenger’s mother stood up and told the judge she wants Larry Krasner, @philadao, arrested. The judge told her to leave the courtroom @CBSPhilly https://t.co/yxxW5KL0BM
— Matt Petrillo (@MattPetrillo) October 17, 2019
“We’re not going to hold anybody accountable for death in this city anymore? We’re just not going to, really?” Linda said.
“How do I feel? I’m absolutely sick to my stomach. That’s how I feel,” Sean Schellenger said.
White was tight-lipped Thursday morning as he walked into the Criminal Justice Center.
“We said 15 months ago Michael White was defending himself. And 12 people who didn’t know each other came together and unanimously agreed with his story,” White family spokesman Greg Thompson said.
This trial gained more attention just before it began. Earlier this month Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner filed a motion to drop the murder charge against White, which was accepted by Judge Glenn B. Bronson.
Schellenger’s family was outraged with the charge being downgraded to manslaughter, while the White’s supporters expressed relief.
Earlier this week, White admitted on the stand he plunged a knife into real estate developer Sean Schellenger after a fight over a traffic jam and then discarded the knife and his bloody clothes. But White also testified that during the July 2018 incident, he did not want Schellenger to die.
The big two questions the jury had to answer: Was the stabbing justified? And did White intend to kill Schellenger?
White’s lawyers said Schellenger hurled a racially charged phrase at White, and then picked him up and swung him around in the air. Schellenger was stabbed during the scuffle that lasted only seconds.
But prosecutors argued White was delivering food on his bike at the time and had inserted himself in a heated fight with Schellenger, pointing out White could have kept going on his way.
But Schellenger’s parents say the trial was fixed and blamed Krasner.
“This ain’t justice. This city is not safer, it’s more dangerous as a result of [Krasner], and he’s a liar,” Linda said. “It’s not just my loss, it’s the city’s loss and how Sean cared about the people in this city.”
Krasner released a statement on the trial Thursday afternoon:
“After several hours of deliberation over two days, a Philadelphia jury has found Michael White guilty of the crime of tampering with evidence in order to conceal his role in the death of Sean Schellenger. The jury also acquitted Mr. White of other charges, including Voluntary Manslaughter, after this office rejected higher homicide charges that I determined were inappropriate to pursue as our investigation continued and gathered new information. Simply put, we followed the facts and the law in seeking justice. And we respect the verdict of the jury in this factually and legally complex case.
“I am proud of our Assistant District Attorneys Voci and Dandy, who presented the case skillfully, ethically, and appropriately for what it was: A case about two unique individuals. This Office remains committed to individual justice, which rejects using people as symbols or stereotypes to serve any other agenda.
“My heart goes out to family and friends of Sean Schellenger, whose pain and trauma are evident even today, and to everyone else who has been affected by this tragedy.”
White faced up to 10 years in prison if convicted of voluntary manslaughter.
Sentencing for the tampering with evidence misdemeanor is set for later this year.
CBS3’s Crystal Cranmore and Matt Petrillo contributed to this report.