Absolutely nothing.The biggest crime story of this summer, the death of Streamline CEO Sean Schellenger has one overarching theme: the local internet couch potatoes know absolutely nothing.
The facts that we do have available are still quite vague, so let’s process what we have:
Fact: The homicide at 17th and Chancellor was road-rage
Three men in a BMW were stuck in traffic at the intersection. Inside the car was Schellenger the murder victim and also two other men: Philadelphia restauranteur Norris Jordan (owner of Lou Bird’s and the Happy Rooster) and Uri Jacobson, another small business owner.
News reports all seem to agree that all three men were inside their vehicle at the time that they encountered Michael White. Schellenger was killed outside the vehicle. In a story where Jacobson talked to the Inquirer, his version is that Schellenger got out of his vehicle to get a vehicle ahead of theirs to move. If true, this alone is behavior that is that is highly aggressive.
Oh, and speaking of aggro, let’s go into this because why not…
Fact: Everybody’s Got Criminal Records
Michael White has one misdemeanor for pot possession and petty theft.
Sean Schellenger’s criminal record is a bit more extensive. Schellenger has a criminal history including arrests in Chester County and Florida, including a 2008 arrest in Florida for disorderly conduct, battery and trespassing although charges were later dropped. He was found guilty of disorderly conduct in 2009 in Chester County, and previously charged in Chester County in August 2001 with burglary, resisting arrest, criminal trespassing, and theft.
Not to be outdone, Jacobson has felonies as well. Uri Jacobson got 30 months for an IRS tax fraud scheme and he has a prior conviction of assault.
Norris Jordan doesn’t appear to have a criminal background.
Fact: Two people who aren’t being charged with anything hired lawyers
This one just sticks out to me as a red flag. Jordan is likely using his go-to lawyer who is also repping him for this homicide, but Jacobson went straight for a crim-dem lawyer. Both Schellenger and Jacobson have prior assaults in their criminal records. They’ve been accused in crimes before of being aggro. This matters.
Ok, that’s the end of the facts. Let’s move on to all the internet arguing. For starters: Schellenger being stabbed in the back
This is the most stupidest argument that has ever existed in a knife crime. Being stabbed in the back doesn’t indicate shit. Being shot in the back when the gunman is 20 feet away matters a whole hell of a lot, but less so at point blank range. Being stabbed in the back is mostly meaningless.
I’ll give you an example. Suppose you are 3 feet away from Michael White and you’re screaming at him for denting your car. You get even closer. Now as you’re less than 2 feet away, the knife comes out. Michael White is quite muscular, and that knife is coming at you with the force of a tricep contraction that can easily carry 60lbs, except that it’s a knife that barely weighs 30 oz. If you see the knife, you’re going to turn away from the knife–starting with your torso, since your legs will take longer to react. Now part of your back is facing Michael White and the knife goes in.
Stop making it sound like Michael White was stabbing Sean Schellenger in his sleep 40 times. Being stabbed in the back doesn’t mean shit. If the videotape shows White walking across the street and White runs up to Schellenger while he’s unaware the knife is coming, then you have something to talk about.
But you don’t have the videotape, do you? So right now you’re just talking shit. You should probably stop.
Knives are illegal in Philadelphia
Well no shit, Sherlock. Philadelphia is one of only 8 places in the entire United States that have total knife bans. If you want to get a glimpse of how ideal gun control would work in the city, Philadelphia’s cutting instrument ban is a great indicator of how effective bans are. The bans do shit as prevention measures.
Most people who violate the city’s cutting instrument ordinance have no idea that there’s a knife ban here (we also have a partial state ban as well).
Why would people carry knives? Knives are super-cheap and they don’t “print”. Concealing a firearm (which is legal in the City with the correct license) is actually quite a difficult task. You have to wear clothing with enough “give” so the firearm isn’t obvious. You have to wear shirts and blouses with enough overhang outside of winter. And even then you could bend over to pick up your car keys in the Target parking lot and a stupid shit-for-brains calls in a “man/woman with gun ZOMG!” to the police and suck 30 minutes out of your day.
Knives in the right hands can make effective self-defense weapons, provided you have fast reflexes, have a good grip, and know where to strike to be effective. The trouble with knives is there are very few people who give any training on them. But they do give some of the safety comfort that carrying a firearm does without having to deal with the fear of firearms.
People who work in dangerous parts of the city, like food delivery people–need some sort of protection. In Philadelphia you only have two offensive weapons to choose from: pepper sprays and gels, or firearms. That’s it.
Apparently nobody told Michael White that this city targets people they don’t like with knife ordinance violations. No retired Philadelphia cop with “knife butt” (if you sidepocket or backpocket a knife regularly you know what this is) ever gets stopped and clicked for a knife violation. Cutting instrument violators also face a scant amount of jail time just on that charge alone. It can mean a few more months or a year as an accessory charge or can put you back in jail on a VOP, but that’s about it.
But let’s pretend for a second that the city’s silly cutting instrument ban didn’t exist. What then? For starters, it makes Michael White look far less guilty. Three dudes in a car vs. one dude with a messenger bag and a knife. Yeah, Schellenger didn’t walk into the knife–but he got out of the car, in traffic, to mess with Michael. It could quite possibly turn out that self defense was the root of Sean’s homicide. Michael White would then be sitting with one charge left, the knife ordinance.
This Whole First Degree Murder Bullshit
This needs to be unpacked. First Degree Murder is pre-meditated homicide. The word “meditate” is exactly what you think it means: you planned this shit out, you gave it some thought. You wanted this person to die, he needs to go… now’s your chance to kill him. These are your Law and Order cases. The reason why we classify homicide into these categories is because we as a society believe that not all homicides are the same and the facts that went into the killing do matter in how punishment is doled out. People who plan out killings get the worst punishment we can dish out. People who kill when being pushed into a corner under extreme duress get less time.
Regardless of what Sean’s mother said, it’s not Murder-1 based solely on how you feel torn and left void by the loss of your son.
If Michael White was trying to rob the men in the vehicle (which Jacobson didn’t seem to mention to the Inquirer), told any of the men he was going to kill them or had planned to kill any of them–how can this be murder in the first degree? Michael White could have been held on murder-1 charges, sure… but that charge would be downgraded before trial. At some point someone has to prepare a trial in this case and has to present a murder-1 to a box of 12.
If you don’t have premeditation then it’s not murder-1. It’s not even murder-2 if White wasn’t committing some other felony when killing Sean.
These are obvious things. They’re elementary things to understand the Pennsylvania criminal justice system. If you do not know this you should not be licensed to practice law in Pennsylvania.
I mean, you can come on my Internet site and blather all the bullshit you want, but you’re not going to change a process that’s existed and well-known in this Commonwealth for over 250 years of publicized homicide prosecutions. These are things laypeople should know; that’s why the news media doesn’t print “What types of Murder Are There?” info boxes next to crime stories when discussing sentencing.
Besides: It’s not the DA who determines murder categories. It’s the prelim hearing judge who does this.
Our Shitty DA
Last but not least is the District Attorney himself. Krasner is terrible and he’s already pissed off several homicide victim survivors and just added another one to his disappointment trophy case.
Downgrading Michael White’s case to Murder-3/manslaughter is correcting a mistake. Based on what facts are available, White isn’t a Murder-1 case. The District Attorney can argue for upgraded charges just as easily as it can argue for them to be downgraded. What should the DA do if there’s no pre-meditation? Lie?
I am not sure how Murder-1 and zero bail gives any comfort to Sean’s mother, much less his friends. I think what will hurt more is if White’s prosecution is fucked-up to the point of a hung jury or jury nullification, something the DAO could still do.
I know how bad everyone on social media wants to be a Facebook Juror in this case, but let’s just admit to ourselves: nobody wants to be a real juror on this thing.