Judge drops murder charge against Michael White in Rittenhouse stabbing

A judge has agreed to a request by Philadelphia's top prosecutor to drop a third-degree murder charge against a bicycle deliveryman in the stabbing death of a real estate developer during a traffic confrontation near the city's tony Rittenhouse Square last year.

Common Pleas Court Judge Glenn Bronson on Monday accepted District Attorney Larry Krasner's argument Friday that prosecutors had the best chance of a conviction pursuing only voluntary manslaughter and weapons count charges against 22-year-old Michael White.

Police say 37-year-old Sean Schellenger was in a car with two others in July 2018 when a confrontation began with White, who was delivering food on his bicycle and who authorities said pulled a knife and stabbed Schellenger. Prosecutors earlier withdrew a first-degree murder charge in the case.


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Sean Schellenger and Michael White

Right to left: Michael White, 22, has been charged with the murder of real estate developer Sean Schellenger.

Linda Schellenger, the victim's mother, blasted Krasner's decision to drop the third-degree murder charge Friday and urged the judge to reject the motion, saying "let the jury decide." The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that the judge told people in the courtroom that relatives, friends, and lawyers should not speak to reporters during the trial as jury selection began Monday.

Krasner said in the motion that jurors could accept that the stabbing occurred "under a sudden or intense passion from serious provocation or acting in unreasonable self-defense" and still convict on voluntary manslaughter, but those elements would be acceptable as a legal defense on a third-degree murder charge, so his "strategic and policy-based decision" was that a lead charge of voluntary manslaughter was the best chance for "a just conviction." 

In August, White's lawyers told the judge that their client would testify that Schellenger used a racial epithet during a physical altercation. Schellenger hadn't been previously accused of such remarks and prosecutors told the judge at the hearing that they had no evidence that he had done so. White is black and Schellenger was white; the two men didn't know each other.

Krasner said that White will face new evidence-tampering and obstruction charges, and said there was an "agreement by the defense" to those charges if prosecutors move to drop the third-degree murder charge.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.