Judge calls NT burn attack an 'evil' act

Officer's lead the convicted Jonathon White away from the courtroom Friday, October 25, 2019. (Robert Kirkham/Buffalo News)

After Jonathon White was convicted in the assault and attempted murder of his ex-girlfriend, Erie County District Attorney John Flynn said he was "committed" to ensuring that the North Tonawanda man received the maximum sentence, and on Friday, that's exactly what White got.

Supreme Court Justice Mark Montour sentenced White, who was found guilty last year of first-degree assault and second-degree attempted murder, to spend the next 25 years of his life behind bars. White will also be subjected to five years of post-release supervision. 

The victim in the case, Jessica Cameron, the mother of White's children, was severely injured on Dec. 17, 2018, after White set her on fire in an enclosed dumpster area behind the Tim Hortons at 71 Niagara St., Tonawanda, where they both worked. 

Before he passed his sentence, Montour asked everyone in the courtroom to pause for 78 seconds, the amount of time Cameron was on fire before the flames were extinguished. He said a jury didn't believe White's version of the attack, that he had intended to kill himself that day and that Cameron was ignited by mistake. Montour said he didn't believe it either.  

"(White) conscientiously set out to do evil to Jessica," Montour said. 

In addition, an order of protection was issued against White, which will require him to keep his distance from not only Cameron, but also their three children. The order will be in affect until Dec. 21, 2051. 

Addressing Montour before sentencing, Cameron requested that White be given the maximum sentence. She recounted her painful, and ongoing, recovery from the attack, which included a month in a coma, over a dozen surgeries, the amputation of her fingers and relearning to do "things that most people do without thinking." 

She missed Christmas last year and two of her sons' birthdays during her stay in the hospital. She spoke of her children being frightened by her appearance when she'd pick her sons up from school and the unsolicited comments from people who recognize her in public. 

"I am now and will always be the girl who was set on fire," she said. "And the woman who spoke out about it." 

Assistant District Attorney Ryan Haggerty also addressed Montour before sentencing. He reminded him that while he was facing 25 years, White had given Cameron a life sentence, one issued "without warning, without due process and without an opportunity to defend herself." 

"Some crimes...cry out for the maximum," Haggerty said. He added that he hoped for a sentence that came "as close to justice as we can get, even if it pales in comparison to the sentence imposed on Jessica." 

Though each of the two charges on his conviction carried a maximum sentence of 25 years, the sentences must be served concurrently since they both originated from the same incident. 

In speaking for himself, White commented on accusations that he has shown no remorse for what happened. He said he was remorseful, but that the case that was presented by the prosecution was not the way the incident actually played out. 

It was "blown out of proportion and misconstrued in every way possible," he said in court, where he appeared in restraints and wearing an orange prison sweatshirt. 

Joseph Terranova, White's defense attorney, said that he intended to file an appeal immediately after sentencing. He said there were still a lot of questions about the circumstances that led to Cameron being set on fire. 

"We don't know why this happened," Terranova told reporters after the sentence was handed down. "We know how it happened, and we have (White's) explanation as to why but, obviously, the jury didn't accept that. As I stand here today, I don't know why it happened, but it did." 

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