Two white college students on Friday were sentenced to 20 years and 12 years in prison, respectively, in the killing of a black minister in his Chatsworth home over a minor traffic accident. The case prompted accusations of racism against the district attorney's office for its handling of the case.
Before sentencing by San Fernando Superior Court Judge Howard J. Schwab, who called the shooting "beyond all comprehension," children of the pastor said they forgive the killers, but wished Dana Singer and Philip Dimenno had received stiffer sentences.
But they also said that harsher sentences would not lessen the pain of losing their father, Carl White, 54, pastor of Apostolic Temple Church in Pacoima.
"They have a father that loves them regardless of what happens," said Stephen White, the second oldest of the pastor's seven children, referring to the two defendants. "They have one thing I don't have, and that's a father. My children will never get to know their grandfather."
The case triggered charges of racism after the district attorney's office initially recommended an unusually low bail of $20,000 for the defendants, who later admitted killing the pastor. As a result, the district's attorney's office now requires all branch offices to obtain approval for bail recommendation of less than $250,000 in murder cases.
In a plea bargain worked out in July, Schwab sentenced Singer, 19, to 20 years to life in state prison for second-degree murder and credit card fraud. Dimenno, 20, was sentenced to 12 years in state prison for voluntary manslaughter and burglary.
Singer will be eligible for parole in 14 years and Dimenno in less than six years.
Dimenno will be allowed to begin serving his term in a California Youth Authority facility because of threats made against him, according to Deputy Dist. Atty. Kenneth L. Barshop.
Last year while waiting in a holding facility at the San Fernando Courthouse, both men were attacked by a black prisoner. Dimenno's attorney, Harold Greenberg, said his client has been receiving threatening letters with racial overtones, including one that said black inmates would harm Dimenno in prison.
From the defendants' table, Dimenno apologized to both his and the pastor's family. "This has destroyed many families," he said, "and for that I'm sorry."
Outside the courtroom, White's daughter, Deborah Gibson, 25, who broke down several times during the proceedings, said Singer "should have gotten the electric chair" and that Dimenno should have gotten life in prison.
The shooting occurred on July 28, 1990, after the pair went to White's house in Chatsworth to try to persuade him not to report a traffic accident in which Dimenno had rear-ended the pastor's car.