A Philadelphia judge has approved an “11th-hour” motion to drop the third-degree murder charge against a 22-year-old bike courier accused of fatally stabbing a real estate developer during a confrontation in Rittenhouse Square last summer.
Under an agreement struck by Michael White’s lawyers and the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office, White now faces the lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter.
Third-degree murder carries a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison, while manslaughter carries a maximum sentence of 20 years.
White will also face additional charges, including tampering with evidence, a misdemeanor.
Assistant District Attorney Anthony Voci said Monday that White trashed bloody clothes and the backpack he was wearing during the incident that left 37-year-old Sean Schellenger dead. He also argued that White intentionally impeded prosecutors’ efforts to view the contents of his cell phone, which White’s lawyers dispute.
Monday’s ruling came on the first scheduled day of White’s trial. Jury selection is expected to begin later Monday with opening arguments expected to start on Thursday.
In a brief filed Friday afternoon, Krasner said pursuing voluntary manslaughter instead of third-degree murder was the “most likely way to secure a just conviction for this killing.”
On July 12, Schellenger, 37, was stabbed once in the back after arguing with White on the 1700 block of Chancellor Street, according to police. Schellenger was pronounced dead at a hospital at 11:35 p.m.
White, who was riding his bike as an Uber Eats deliveryman, allegedly ran from the scene after the incident. Two days later, he surrendered to detectives, telling them where they could find the weapon, a knife he had thrown onto a West Philadelphia rooftop.
Complicating matters is race. White is black, and has claimed Schelleger, who was white, used racist language in their exchange.
White’s family and supporters insist White acted in self-defense.
A gag order remains in place, barring lawyers from speaking to the press. Common Pleas Court Judge Glenn Bronson, who is presiding over the case, has also advised family members not to talk to one another — in person or via social media.