Laws & Lawyers: Montauk Sandbags, Jason Lee, KKK…

Hamptons Justice Cash
Justice in the Hamptons, Photo: Oliver Peterson, Kyu Oh, PatrickPoendl/iStock/Thinkstock

Douglas Munker, the Hampton Bays resident who had admitted to putting up posters on an ATM machine in that town inviting people to join the Ku Klux Klan last month, had his day in court this past week.

The charge against Munker was not for asking people to join the Ku Klux Klan, but for distributing a handbill in violation of town code. You plead guilty or innocent. You pay a fine or are required to return at a later date and tell the judge your side of the story. He either dismisses it or you have to pay.

Mr. Munker rejected a plea deal for littering (a lesser charge than for distributing handbills illegally), which would have landed him a $150 fine. He declared the charge against him was a violation of his right to freedom of speech and he demanded a jury trial at his next appearance so he could discuss his being acquitted.

It’s not possible to just order up a jury trial like you’d order a pizza, especially if it is for something you have not been charged with.

Nobody disputes his right to free speech. Advertising the KKK, as awful as it might be, is not an exception like, say, shouting “fire!” in a crowded theater.

The only way to get a jury trial that I know is to commit something more serious, several steps up from no permit for leaflet distribution.

Speaking of non-jury trial, swift justice has been rendered in the case of Jason Lee, a former Managing Director at Goldman Sachs who got accused of raping a 20-year-old Irish girl in a rented East Hampton mansion a year and a half ago. Closing arguments were on Tuesday. Eighteen hours later, Judge Barbara Kahn ruled that Lee was
not guilty.

The matter involved a sexual encounter in the bathroom of Lee’s house. Lee had said it was consensual. The young woman said she resisted and there was a struggle in the bathroom during which she tried to fight him off. In the end, Judge Kahn seemingly gave great weight to the fact that the woman’s brother, who was present at the house that night, had refused to testify for his sister, and, as he was back in Ireland, was beyond the reach of any American court to force him by subpoena to do so. “Through no fault of the people’s,” the judge said, “the court was deprived” of
this testimony.

East Hampton Town, which owns East Hampton Airport, passed laws restricting loud aircraft landing there. It also has set new, shorter hours for when the airport will be closed. Lawyers representing flying interests that would be affected last week filed a suit demanding that a judge issue a temporary restraining order to stop these new laws going into effect. The new laws go into effect on Memorial Day weekend. We shall see what we shall see.

In last week’s issue, we wrote about the United Riverhead Terminal (URT), a petroleum storage facility that planned to swap out about 3 percent of the petroleum stored there with gasoline to be used in cars and trucks. They had applied to the town for a permit to do this, and were vociferously opposed by the Northville Beach Civic Association, who see this as a big step up and a threat to the peace and quiet of the community.

This week, URT withdrew its request for the town permit.

Having this facility store gasoline as well as petroleum could have meant lower prices at the pump, because today the closest place for local gas stations to get gasoline is at a facility in Holtsville and by law they can charge more the further away they have to deliver it. A second source closer by would not be able to charge more. Also, having such a storage facility in Riverhead would mean that if a big storm were to cut off access to Holtsville, we’d still have gas. Maybe URT should reconsider.

Daniel Pelosi is in prison in upstate New York, having been convicted of beating to death a wealthy New York City investment banker named Ted Ammon at Ammon’s vacation home in East Hampton. But lawyers for Pelosi have asserted that his conviction was flawed because the prosecutor in the case did not retain her professional composure in court after he threatened to kill her and her family.

A panel of four judges is reviewing this irregularity. They can say it is not an irregularity, or they can say that it is an irregularity but a small one that could be ignored, or it could be a big irregularity requiring that Pelosi be re-tried for his crime, or it could be a mammoth irregularity requiring that the conviction of murder be thrown out and Daniel Pelosi of Center Moriches be set free. The decision is expected this summer.

A judge in Brooklyn has declared James Malone, a former Southampton councilman, liable for claims made against him by a contractor that include false imprisonment and assault at the Suffolk County Center on a December day in 2011.

Malone was the Deputy Suffolk County Clerk at the time. Anthony Prosano, the contractor, said that he was owed money by Malone for renovation work he’d done at Malone’s house in Hampton Bays and was at the Suffolk County Clerk’s Office in Riverside to file a lien against Malone’s house for nearly $8,000 when he came across Malone, who had an office there. According to the case, when he entered Malone’s office, Malone locked the door, stood in front of it and said he was under arrest because he had broken a window to get into Malone’s house to retrieve his tools. Prosano quietly recorded what transpired next on his cell phone.

“You are f—ing playing in a pool you don’t belong in,” Malone told him, according to the transcript in the lawsuit. He then said he was holding him because he’d broken the window and entered his house. “You’re arrested,” Malone said.

“You can’t hold me here.”

“I’m the deputy county clerk. I’m holding you.”

Eventually, Malone let Prosano go.

Prosano was seeking money owed for the work and could get more than a million in damages for the false imprisonment, and an unspecified amount for the assault. The judge dismissed an $11 million lawsuit for defamation and slander Malone had filed in response.

Malone reportedly hopes to run for district court judge in November and has started the process by filing papers seeking an interview with the Suffolk County Bar Association, which reviews the qualifications of applicants.

Three years ago at an extremely high tide, the ocean overtopped the sand dunes protecting downtown Montauk and Town bulldozers had to be brought in to close the breach. Sometime later, it happened again at another high tide. As a result, the Army Corps of Engineers has gotten all the approvals needed to implement a $9 million program to put sandbags under the dunes to shore up downtown for its entire half-mile length. Work was supposed to start in April so Montauk would be safe this summer. But lawsuits, from a surfer organization and from an environmental organization, have delayed the start until fall. Will Montauk flood this summer, ruining downtown? If it does, too bad, but at least proponents will be able to say we told you so.

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