At a Christmas meal for the needy at the Rev. Al Sharpton's Harlem headquarters, Gov. Paterson further discussed his controversial decision to commute the sentence of John White, the Long Island man who was convicted of killing a teenager in a racially-charged 2006 incident. Paterson was widely criticized for not talking with the parents of victim Daniel Cicciaro Jr. before announcing his decision. When he did finally speak to them after the fact, he said he "heard the pain" in mother Joanne Cicciaro's voice: "At times, I must say, in spite of her anger, in spite of her passion, in spite of her absolute gall at hearing what I had done, she and her husband, Mike, were very, very gracious," Paterson said.

While holding to his belief in his decision to commute White, Paterson admitted to handling the situation very badly: "I'm governor, and if I was going to release an inmate from a facility, I should have spoken to the family." Newsday points out that Paterson did not pardon White; though White is free, he still has a felony record. "A pardon is a much stronger statement than commuting a sentence is. To pardon is to say he [White] shouldn't be held responsible for what he did. There's a huge difference in terms of what the statement is," said Richard Klein, a professor at Touro Law School in Central Islip.