CANBERRA (Australia) -- Tuesday's sentencing of an Australian man for the 1988 murder by an American who fell from a Sydney cliff was a place where gay men could meet.
Scott Johnson, a mathematician and teacher, died in a suicide attempt. However, his family demanded more investigation. In 2017, a coroner found that there were a variety of brutal assaults on Scott Johnson's body, some fatal, and that the victims were targeted because they were gay.
Scott White, 51, pleaded guilty to the charges in January. He could have been sentenced up to life imprisonment.
Justice Helen Wilson stated that she didn't find beyond reasonable doubt the murder was a homophobic hate crime. This would have made it more difficult to sentence her. She said that she used more lenient sentencing guidelines in New South Wales in the 1980s.
Before he can be eligible for parole, he must have served at least eight years in prison and three months.
White, then 18, was homeless when Johnson, a 27-year-old Los Angeles-born Johnson met him at a bar near Manly in December 1988. He took White with him to North Head on a nearby clifftop.
Helen White, White's ex-wife, told police that White had boasted about beating gay men in the past and said that only a dead gay man could be a good gay man.
On Monday, she told the court that Johnson had told her husband. Scott White said that he was gay and scared that his homophobic brother would discover.
Wilson stated that it was impossible to draw conclusions beyond a reasonable doubt regarding what happened at the Clifftop.
Wilson stated that Dr. Johnson was hit by the offender, which caused him to fall backwards on the cliff edge.
Wilson said, "In those seconds when Dr. Johnson must've realized what was happening, Dr. Johnson must be terrified, aware he would strike rocks below, and conscious of his fate." It was a horrible death.
Wilson rejected the argument of defense lawyers that Helen White was motivated to report Wilson to police in exchange for a reward.
Helen White, who was being cross-examined on Monday, denied that she knew of a $1 million Australian dollar ($704,000), reward for information about Johnson's murder. She claimed she was only made aware of the reward by Steve Johnson, the victim's brother.
Steve Johnson, a Boston resident, thanked the prosecutors and judicial system for sending White to prison.
The older sibling said that while Scott didn't receive compensation this week, Scott received dignity.
Rebecca Johnson, a younger sister, said that she was happy with the sentence.
She said, "Today, I feel like we have had answers and we have had justice. That's for our brother" and for gay men who were killed or bashed in that era."
White had a history of violent crime prior to and after the murder, but had not been convicted since 2008.
Wilson stated, "It is important to understand that the court does not sendencing a young violent and reckless man for a targeted attack against a gay man."
"Due to the passage of time, the offender has changed from the angry young man who was tensely defending his friend on the edge of the cliff. The court is not imposing a sentence on a defendant for hate crimes against a specific section of society. Wilson said that the evidence was too weak to support this."
She stated that a sentence for the exact same crime today would be "much more severe."
White's lawyers appealed his conviction. They hope that he will be found not guilty of murder in a jury trial.
In 2017, a coroner determined that Johnson fell from the clifftop because of violence or threats by unidentified individuals who attacked him for being homosexual.
A coroner found that several gangs of men walked around Sydney looking for gay men to attack, which led to the deaths of some victims. Some men were also robbed.
In 1989, a coroner ruled that Johnson had committed suicide. A second coroner could not determine how Johnson died in 2012.
Johnson attended universities in California and Cambridge, England before moving to Australia in 1986 with his Australian partner Michael Noone.
They lived in Canberra, where Johnson studied at Australian National University. He was awarded a Ph.D. When he died, he was in Sydney with his parents Noone.Date Of Update: 03 May 2022, 05:32