The man who admitted to killing US mathematician Scott Johnson by bluffing him off a cliff at a Sydney gay hangout in 1988 does not deserve a pardon and could face the longest prison sentence, victims say. brother said on Tuesday. Scott Phillip White, 52, appeared in the Supreme Court of New South Wales for a sentencing hearing after pleading guilty to manslaughter. White pleaded guilty to murder last year but changed his mind and the conviction was overturned on appeal.
Mr. Johnson’s older brother, Steve Johnson, who is based in Boston, said Mr. White lost his family’s sympathy for retracting his murder confession. He and his wife Rosemary said, “I felt a kind of sympathy for his generosity. There is no room for sympathy today,” Steve Johnson said in a victim statement read out in court. He told reporters after the hearing that the overturn of White’s conviction and prison sentence on appeal had nullified any gratitude his family felt.
“So I hope the judge gives him the maximum possible sentence,” said Steve Johnson. The maximum sentence for manslaughter is 25 years.
Johnson said White’s decision to flee the scene without calling police extended the family’s grief and loss for decades. “He didn’t check on Scott. He didn’t ask for help. He didn’t notify anyone. He just let Scott die,” Johnson said. Rosemary Johnson said in her own statement that she called her brother-in-law a sweet, kind and gentle person. “You were loved, you were lonely, your life was important, but you weren’t forgotten,” she said.
On December 10, 1988, in the heat of an altercation, White punched 27-year-old Scott Johnson, causing him to stagger backwards and fall to his death on what was then called the North Head Cliffs. Dangerous Blow was a meeting place for gay men. Los Angeles native Scott Johnson’s death was initially ruled a suicide, but his family has called for further investigation. It took nearly 30 years for New South Wales police to begin investigating his death as a homophobic hate crime suspect. Prosecutor Brett Hatfield may conclude that the judge overseeing the new sentencing has insufficient evidence that White was motivated to attack Johnson because of his sexuality.
admitted that Hatfield, however, called for a longer prison sentence, calling it a gratuitous attack on a vulnerable person who was naked in a remote area. “This is a serious example of manslaughter with a serious level of crime,” Hatfield said. White’s attorney, Tim Game, called for leniency, citing his client’s cognitive and dysfunctional background at the time of the crime. “He had just come of age and his life was a mess and a terrible mess,” Game said. White will be sentenced on Thursday. He had been sentenced to more than 12 years in prison for murder until his conviction was overturned.
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