Brother of gay American attacked on Sydney cliff in 1988 says killer deserves no leniency
Share this

SYDNEY – A man who admitted killing American mathematician Scott Johnson by punching him from a cliff top at a gay meeting place in Sydney in 1988 deserves no leniency and should face the longest time in jail, the victim’s brother said Tuesday.

Scott Phillip White, 52, appeared in the New South Wales state Supreme Court for a sentencing hearing after pleading guilty to manslaughter. White had pleaded guilty to murder last year, but changed his mind and had that conviction overturned on appeal.

Johnson’s Boston-based older brother Steve Johnson said White had lost the family’s sympathy by withdrawing his confession to murder.

He and his wife Rosemary “felt some compassion because of his generous plea. Today I have no sympathy,” Steve Johnson said in a victim impact statement read out to the court.

Any gratitude the family felt was undone after White’s conviction and jail sentence were overturned on appeal, he told reporters after the hearing.

“So I am hoping the judge will give him the stiffest sentence he possibly can,” Steve Johnson said.

Manslaughter carries a maximum sentence of 25 years.

White’s decision to flee the scene without calling the police had prolonged the family’s grief and loss for decades, Johnson said.

“He didn’t check on Scott. He didn’t call for help. He notified no one. He simply let Scott die,” Johnson said.

In her own statement, Rosemary Johnson spoke of her sweet, kind and gentle brother-in-law.

“You are loved, you are missed, your life mattered, and you have not been forgotten,” she said.

In the heat of an argument on Dec. 10, 1988, White said he threw a punch at Scott Johnson, 27, causing him to stagger backward and fall to his death over a cliff at North Head that was known at the time to be a meeting place for gay men.

Los Angeles-born Scott Johnson’s death was initially called a suicide, but his family pressed for further investigation. Almost three decades passed before New South Wales state police began investigating his death as a suspected gay hate crime.

Prosecutor Brett Hatfield conceded the judge overseeing the new sentence may find there was not enough evidence to show White was motivated to attack Johnson because of Johnson’s sexuality. However, Hatfield still sought a higher jail sentence, saying it was an unprovoked attack on a vulnerable individual who was naked in a remote location.

“It’s a serious example of manslaughter entailing a significant degree of criminality,” Hatfield said.

White’s lawyer Tim Game urged for leniency because of his client’s cognitive difficulties at the time of the crime as well as his dysfunctional background.

“He had just become an adult and his life was chaotic and a terrible mess,” Game said.

White will be sentenced Thursday. He had been sentenced to more than 12 years in prison for murder before that conviction was overturned.

Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

Share this
You May Also Like

Grandmother is guilty of murdering her husband of 34 years by plunging kitchen knife into his heart as she prepared post-Christmas dinner – before she carried on caramelising the onions

A grandmother murdered her husband of 34 years by plunging a kitchen…

NHS issues school trans guide to help teachers, schools and parents after ministers dither on issuing official advice

NHS issues school trans guide to help teachers, schools and parents after…

Co-op bosses say shoplifting is causing 'anarchy' in the aisles with staff having syringes and knives pulled on them

Co-op bosses have said shoplifting is causing anarchy at its stores and…

GOP struggles with chaos as shutdown deadline nears

Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) is on his third strategy to avoid a…

Bus carrying high school students to band camp veers off highway, killing 1 and hurting dozens

The bus was one of six in a caravan carrying students from…

‘The Traitors’ Season 2 Cast Revealed To Include Peter Weber, Ekin-Su Cülcüloğlu, Larsa Pippen & More Reality All-Stars

The Traitors has another star-studded cast for Season 2. The Peacock series…

Colleagues support Willowick police officer who had stroke before her wedding: ‘We miss her’

Officer Madison Orton is just 27 years old. She’s been on the…

1987 murder case in Cleveland expected to be dismissed against man who spent decades behind bars

‘I was good. I never had more than a speeding ticket.’ CLEVELAND…

F35 pilot who ejected over South Carolina is heard pleading for an ambulance in bizarre 911 call from resident's house and admitting 'I'm not sure where my plane is'

The 911 call that was made after an F35 pilot ejected over…

Tropical Storm Conditions for North Carolina

11:00 p.m., The low pressure system was centered near latitude 29.5 North,…

Two Dead, 42 Hurt in New York Bus Crash Carrying Students

A charter bus in New York carrying students from Long Island to…

My boyfriend is obsessed with mentioning my dad when we are getting down and dirty – it creeps me out but he tells me I just need to loosen up

A young woman has been told to ‘run as fast as she…