Over the years, this publication has set its sights on keeping our community free of group house rentals that disturb the neighbors with bad behavior. We’ve written about young New Yorkers who have rented large homes from local residents with a cross-your-heart-and-hope-to-die promise that it would only be used by aging parents and a few of their friends but who then turn around and advertise online and in The Village Voice for party people to sign up by the weekend, 40 at a time, with mattresses on all the floors, to enjoy the pool, the decks and the good times. Responding to beer bottles thrown around, thumping music, trash and condoms hanging in trees, the local authorities have mostly been able to get these sorts of misbehaviors under control, leaving us free to rent houses out to the rich and famous who live more quiet lives behind the hedgerows.
Well, Behind the Hedges is the name of one of our publications, and if you look through the glossy color pages of that magazine, you will see the beautiful tennis courts and gardens and lawns that grace the properties that surround these beautiful mansions that are inside all re-done by talented decorators to create private movie theaters, libraries, game rooms and stunning master bedrooms for those of us, in the game of life, who have made it to the top.
This is all by way of a preview to what follows in the rest of the story, where the question of what went on, at least at 1 Clover Leaf Lane in Wainscott, in the early morning hours of August 20, 2013, is on display with the hedgerow parted, in a courtroom in Riverhead. This past week, the prosecution rested, and then the defense also rested. It has now gone to the judge.
The house in question, a lovely mansion, was rented for August of 2013 year by Jason Lee and his wife, Alicia, for $33,000 a month.
Jason Lee, 37 at that time, was an investment banker and managing director at the firm of Goldman Sachs. He has since left that company, although it was not clear whether he did so because of disagreements or a better job offer or just to defend himself, because, if convicted as charged he could be sentenced to prison.
On the night in question, Jason Lee was out at the house in the Hamptons alone. His wife was in the city. It was also his 37th birthday.
Before this trial began, the prosecution discussed evidence that one of Lee’s friends had allegedly been trying to find him a companion on a website that is fairly well known for hooking men up with prostitutes. It was thought, at least by Newsday, which reported this, that it might be used at trial, but when the defense took issue it was withdrawn. In any case, this was not about anything on a computer. It involved another person, a 20-year-old, very real young Irish girl whose name has not been revealed but who calls herself D.D.
D.D. had been out in the Hamptons that weekend to visit her brother. Her brother, also a native of Ireland, was working at the Surf Lodge in Montauk. D.D. had been working in Myrtle Beach and wanted to take a vacation, and he had invited her up for a visit. She’d never been here before.
Both D.D. and her brother, along with another Irish girl named Fiona—again, no last names—went to the nightspot Georgica, overlooking Georgica Pond on the Montauk Highway in East Hampton, for an evening of drinking, mingling and dancing.
The nightspot closed at 4 a.m. that Saturday night. And by that time, D.D. had met Jason Lee, and Lee, as the bar was about to close, suggested that D.D. and Fiona and her brother and several other people continue to party at his home, not far away, into the night. They went. Also attending were some of Lee’s other friends, including one who had supposedly lent his SUV out to another man at the bar to take home some other people and who, after that, would return to Lee’s house.
At the house, the prosecution said at trial, the party continued. Champagne was served. Lee took off all his clothes and jumped into his pool. D.D. didn’t take off all her clothes but did take off enough to jump in with only her underwear on. There are conflicting stories of who jumped in first and who got out first. In any case, when Lee got out, he allegedly continued to be naked around the house. It was his birthday, after all.
It was about 5:45 in the morning police received a call from the house from the owner of the SUV. He was reporting it stolen. As it was later testified to in court, Lee tried to get him not to call. The borrower would show up. But the man wanted his car. The police came.
It is not clear whether the police left to come before or after the incident happened in the bathroom. In any case, when it happened the police had not yet arrived. But D.D., who emerged dressed in dry clothes, seemed very upset, according to her friends. She talked to Fiona about what had happened in there. She said she had been attacked.
The police arrived as dawn was breaking. Their initial investigation was about the supposed car theft. But during the gathering of the information about it, D.D.’s brother told the police that something more important should be looked into. It involved his sister. She was very upset. And they needed to talk to her. And so they did. D.D. told them that Jason Lee had raped her in the bathroom. She then recounted the story that, one-and-a-half years later, she re-told in a Riverhead courtroom after she and Fiona, who had both returned to Ireland, came back to testify. It was the first time she had been in the same room as Jason Lee since that night.
According to D.D., still in her wet underwear from the pool, she had gone into the bathroom to change into dry clothes. She had not locked the door. It opened, and naked Jason Lee tried to get in. She pushed the door to hold him off, but in he came. He then pushed her to the floor, held his hand over her mouth and, D.D. said, raped her. She said she had not only not consented; she tried to fight him off. She bit his hand and finally, getting partially free, she kneed him in the privates. He then got up and left.
It was said by prosecutors that the police found Jason Lee “hiding” in the backseat of his Range Rover parked in the driveway outside. But I think that is an overstatement. He was having a very bad day. It was his birthday, the police were at the house and now they were talking about arresting him, not the man involved with the missing car. I think he could have gone outside to make phone calls and send texts. He texted a friend. He texted his wife to tell her he was okay but he was in trouble. He allegedly contacted several cab companies and received a text from Uber.
It was true that the police went looking for him. But he had not run away. They found him, an investigator said, curled up on the backseat. Maybe he was asleep. Who knows? Everyone, it seems from the reports, had had quite a bit to drink.
Jason Lee’s wife accompanied him to court. In court, Jason Lee pled not guilty. He insists that he had consensual sex with D.D. and that the surveillance cameras that were everywhere (but not in the bathroom) would show that they had paired off. He was defended by a notable Houston lawyer, Andrew Lankler, assisted by Eddie Burke Jr., the Sag Harbor lawyer who had defended Lizzie Grubman all those years ago when, in her Mercedes, she backed into a group of people standing outside a nightspot in North Sea who were waiting to get in and then, after they complained, called the victims (some of whom were injured) “white trash,” witnesses said, before driving off. Grubman served 38 days in jail.
After Jason Lee’s arrest, the forensic people and the detectives went into Clover Leaf Circle and dusted for fingerprints, looked for clothing and other evidence and, in the bathroom, bodily fluids. D.D. went to the Peconic Bay Medical Center, where she was examined by a registered nurse. They found her to be very upset, weeping and crying. They did not find semen. She did exhibit scratches and bruises, including one on her private parts. D.D.’s saliva, meanwhile, was found on the pants Jason Lee wore that night when he got dressed after being in the bathroom, on the groin area and around the pockets. It’s been speculated that when D.D. bit him, her saliva had been transferred to his pants when he put them back on for the encounter with the police. (The defense attorney suggested the saliva suggested possible oral sex, but withdrew the suggestion when the prosecutor asked, “Would he have had to put his penis in his pocket for there to be saliva there too?”) A dress allegedly worn by D.D. was produced. An earring that belonged to D.D. was found on the bathroom floor.
At trial, D.D. said she had gone to the house innocently because she liked him and wanted to help him celebrate his birthday. She told the court she didn’t think he’d be interested in her, a 20-year-old girl.
Lee did not testify. Also not testifying, in fact refusing to testify, was D.D.’s brother, who had also returned to Ireland. He refused, even though offered a free trip back to do so, saying he had to study for his college exams.
The judge assigned this case is Barbara Kahn, who has handled rape cases in the past and who handles many domestic dispute cases for the county. There could have been a jury. But it was the choice of the defense to decide if they wanted one. They decided to go with Judge Kahn alone. And so, with it over, it is now up to her.
For many years, at least 40, there was a full-size replica of colonial stockades set up about halfway down Jobs Lane in Southampton. They took them down when a new store was built on the site. But until they did, tourists and anybody else could get behind the stockades and stick their heads and hands through the three holes respectively to have their pictures taken as convicted criminals from colonial times told to stand there and be shamed by law abiding citizens who happened by.
Jason Lee has had to endure the 21st century version of the stocks, and social media, with all the public humiliation that brings. And it is not stocks and bonds. And soon, Barbara Kahn will tell him if he has to go to jail.
[EDITOR’S NOTE: Jason Lee was acquitted of all charges on Wednesday, April 29.]