DA to drop third-degree murder charge against man accused of fatal Rittenhouse stabbing, victim's family says

An exclusive story you heard first on KYW Newsradio

Kristen Johanson
October 04, 2019 - 5:17 pm
Michael White

Philadelphia Police Department

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The family of the man fatally stabbed in Rittenhouse Square last summer says the Philadelphia district attorney has informed them that he will drop the third-degree murder charge against the accused. 

The family of Sean Schellenger, and their attorney, say they were on a call with District Attorney Larry Krasner when he told them he is writing up a motion to drop the charge of third-degree murder against Michael White — who is accused of stabbing Schellenger in the back in July 2018 near Rittenhouse Square — and proceed only on voluntary manslaughter and a weapons charge.

They also say the DA told them he intends to add additional charges regarding tampering with evidence, as White allegedly tried to hide the knife used and tried to lock investigators out of his phone.

The killing, prosecutors have said, was sparked by a fight between White and Schellenger near 17th and Chancellor streets, after a brief argument between the drivers of two cars. White was riding his bike and delivering food at the time, and investigators say he interjected himself in the fight.

Two eyewitnesses previously testified that defendant, who is black, pulled out a knife, and Schellenger, who was white, tackled him, but he was stabbed in the back.

White was charged with third-degree murder for the fatal stabbing. 

Related: Michael White released from prison following lesser charges from DA

Public defenders filed a motion Friday afternoon seeking to ask additional questions to a potential jurors about racial biases.

White’s defense attorneys say Schellenger used the N-word as the two began to get into a physical altercation. The family has denied any claim Schellenger was racist.

In Pennsylvania, if a trial judge believes the prosecution has failed to properly prosecute, the case can go to the state attorney general.

Last month, White was in court after he followed one of the victim’s relatives on Instagram, violating a judge’s order to stay away from the family. Judge Glenn Bronson sternly warned White to steer clear of the family, but did not put him behind bars, as the prosecutor had requested.

Linda Schellenger, the victim's mother, said she is incredibly disappointed by the decision, but she has faith in the prosecutors and judge handling her son’s case. She hopes they will do the right thing and "not listen to the noise being created by Krasner."

A spokeswoman for District Attorney’s Office says they cannot comment on the case because the judge has issued a gag order.

Jury selection is expected to start Monday. If White is convicted of voluntary manslaughter, he could get 10 to 20 years in prison.