Australian Scott White sentenced to jail for pushing gay American Scott Johnson to death from Sydney cliff

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A family photo provided by New South Wales police shows Scott Johnson, who was pushed to death by a cliff in Sydney, Australia in 1988.

New South Wales Police Force


Sidney – An Australian court sentenced a man to 12 years behind bars Tuesday for the murder of an American gay in Sydney three decades ago, in a case that highlighted a series of homophobic attacks from that era. Scott Phillip White, 51, pleaded guilty killing the American mathematician Scott Johnsonwhose body was found at the base of a cliff in the north of the city in December 1988.

Johnson’s death was initially considered a suicide, but a 2017 investigation found it was likely that the 27-year-old had been pushed over the cliff or fell while trying to escape assailants.

Speaking after the sentencing, Johnson’s brother Steve, who had long been fighting for justice and had traveled to Australia for trial, welcomed the sentence.

“I think what we got this week was fairness,” he told the media outside the Sydney courthouse.

I hate gays in Australia
Steve Johnson, right, with his sisters Terry, left, and Rebecca and his wife Rosemarie, second right, arrive at the Supreme Court in Sydney on May 2, 2022, for a sentencing hearing for Scott’s murder. Johnson, Steve, Terry and Rebecca’s brother.

Rick Rycroft / AP


White previously admitted punching Johnson, with the court finding he caused the victim’s death from a secluded cliff top in Manly.

“The offender committed a violent act, and that act was the direct cause of Dr. Johnson leaving the cliff top in terror and death on the rocks at its base,” said Judge Helen. Wilson in his conviction.

Wilson said the killer’s assault and indifference to Johnson’s fate may have been “driven by the offender’s self-contempt” as a gay man, but the court heard no evidence to prove. that it was a hate crime.

“It is tragic that Mr. Johnson and all his loved ones have had to endure this bitter pain. It is unlikely that the sentence to be passed on the offender will end that pain; perhaps it could bring some peace,” Wilson said. .


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When police accused White in 2020, they rekindled hope that many more cold-blooded killings believed to be gay hate crimes could be solved as well. At the time of Johnson’s death, gangs roamed Sydney looking for gay men to attack and were known to rob or assault men in “gay rhythms” or meeting points.

Police subsequently reclassified 27 deaths between the 1970s and 2000s as homophobic hate crimes.

The force admitted in 2018 that it played a role in marginalizing the LGBT community and enabling “society’s acceptance of shocking violence directed against gay men” during the period.

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