Over the last few days, prosecutors have tried to build a case to prove that the Black bicycle courier accused of fatally stabbing a white real estate developer in Rittenhouse Square last year was looking for a fight and wanted to stab someone.
At the center of their argument is a note police found in 22-year-old Michael White's phone that read, in part, "I ain't even like that. If you piss me off, I'll cut you."
The note was written about a week before he allegedly stabbed 37-year-old Sean Schellenger on July 12, 2018.
Assistant District Attorney Anthony Voci said the note indicates that White had at some point intended to actually cut someone with a knife — and that he saw an opportunity when he saw Schellenger on the street near the intersection of 17th and Chancellor streets.
White, under cross-examination from Voci, testified that "there is no correlation between that note and what happened on July 12. It means I'll cut you off."
Marc Lamont Hill, a Temple University professor and cable news contributor who knows White through the Philadelphia Youth Poetry Movement, backed up White's testimony in court on Tuesday.
He explained that “cut” can have a variety of different meanings in both poetry and in hip-hop culture.
“It can mean cutting of someone or separating from something or somebody. Or, like, ending a relationship,” Hill said.
Earlier in the day, White provided his account of what happened.
He said the confrontation between him and Schellenger began when a gold Ford Taurus, carrying two African-American men making a delivery, stopped on 17th Street, blocking the Mercedes that Schellenger was riding in from continuing down the street.
William Norris Jordan, the driver of the Mercedes that Schellenger was in, beeped his horn and shouted through his open car window, "move, you stupid n-----," White said.
White said he was able to hear what Jordan said because he was only about 2 feet from the vehicle. He said he had headphones on, but one ear was not covered.
Schellenger then got out of the Mercedes and approached the driver's side of the Taurus, White said.
White said he told Schellenger, "This is really no reason to act like a tough guy."
"I said that in hopes that he would stop because he looked like he was really ready to hurt someone," White testified.
Schellenger then turned on White, threatened to "beat the Black off" him, charged him, and the younger, smaller man stabbed Schellenger in self-defense, White said. "I was trying to get him off me," White said.
After Schellenger went down, White fled the scene, went to his aunt's house in West Philadelphia, and threw the knife on a rooftop.
A toxicology report later revealed Schellenger, who had been dining in a nearby restaurant, was legally drunk and had used cocaine.