Michael White, the former bicycle courier and poet who was acquitted of manslaughter in the 2018 Rittenhouse Square stabbing of real estate developer Sean Schellenger, was sentenced to two years of probation for tampering with evidence on Thursday.
Common Pleas Court Judge Glenn B. Bronson imposed probation because White fled the scene at 17th and Chancellor streets and threw the weapon on top of a roof in West Philadelphia. The weapon was later retrieved.
The sentence closes a chapter in a story of race and class that has gripped the city for the past 18 months.
On Thursday, a contrite White said he hopes that the Schellenger family is healing and said he plans to try to move forward.
“I will never be able to put this behind me on a large scale because of the nature of the case and someone’s life was lost,” White said. “The [Schellenger] family is still going through agony and I’m sorry that they are hurting. So like I said, I’ll never be able to put what happened on that night behind me, but I’m relieved that at least the legal battles are over.”
The 22-year-old continued, “Moving forward, I’m going to do everything I can do to make sure that I get off of probation without any issue. I’m going to show people who I am, which is a law-abiding citizen who is a valuable member of the community.”
Members of the Schellenger family did not attend Thursday’s hearing. However, Linda Schellenger, Sean Schellenger’s mother, posted a pre-sentencing statement on her Facebook profile.
“Our life sentence began on July 12, 2018 when Sean was fatally stabbed with a deadly weapon,” Linda Schellenger wrote. “The sentencing is, hopefully, the last episode in [District Attorney Larry] Krasner’s finely orchestrated obstruction of justice. We have endured enough pain at the hands of the The Killer, The DA and [Chief Defender Kier] Bradford-Grey.”
She continued, “Sean Schellenger was intelligent, articulate, successful and kind and no one can ever take those qualities away from him or us!”
The Schellenger family has been critical of District Attorney Larry Krasner and his staff since the DA first lowered the charges against White from first-degree murder to third-degree murder, and even moreso when the DA petitioned the court to reduce the charges to voluntary manslaughter.
After White was found not guilty on the voluntary manslaughter charge and the verdict was read in court, Linda Schellenger walked to the front of the courtroom and told Bronson she wanted to have Krasner arrested for obstruction of justice.
The confrontation between White and Schellenger happened late in the evening of July 12, 2018.
Schellenger and his friends, William Norris Jordan and Uri Jacobson, were traveling near the intersection of 17th and Chancellor streets in a black Mercedes when they were forced to stop because a gold Ford Taurus carrying two Black deliverymen stopped.
Jordan, the driver of the Mercedes, honked his horn and yelled at the deliverymen, “move, you stupid n-----,” White testified during the trial. “That made me uncomfortable.”
Schellenger, 37, then got out of the Mercedes and approached the driver’s side of the Taurus.
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, who had alcohol and cocaine in his system, then turned on White. Jordan, Jacobson and other witnesses testified that they could not hear the words Schellenger and White exchanged, but White said Schellenger threatened to “beat the Black off” him.
White, who was then 16 years younger and 50 pounds lighter than Schellenger, pulled a hunting knife with a 7-inch blade from his backpack.
Officials played surveillance video in court, which showed Schellenger charging at White, picking him up and throwing him to the ground.
During the scuffle, White can be seen with the knife raised over his head. The video shows White’s hand coming down holding the knife. However, it does not show the blade entering Schellenger’s back as the two fall down.
“I was trying to get him off me,” White said. “I wasn’t trying to kill nobody. I was defending myself. I was thinking I could die.”
After Schellenger went down, White pulled the knife from Schellenger’s back, fled the scene, went to his aunt’s house in West Philadelphia, and threw the knife on a rooftop.
White turned himself over to detectives two days later.