New Video Arraignment Rule In Suffolk

T. E. McMorrow
There will be no arraignments at East Hampton Justice Court, or any other local court in Suffolk County for the foreseeable future.

The first video arraignment following an arrest on a felony charge made by the East Hampton Town Police Department was conducted Sunday, March 29.

All arraignments across Suffolk County are now being done through remote video, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. On the East End, depending upon the day and time of the arrest, the defendant will either be arraigned while being held at police headquarters, or will be transported to Central Islip.

Arraignments over weekends or holidays will be conducted by the local town or village justice where the arrest was made, via Skype. Arraignments held during business hours on weekdays will be held in Central Islip, presided over by a county judge, remotely.

Defendants will always have an attorney on-hand to represent them. For the weekday arraignments conducted in Central Islip, defendants will be represented by a lawyer from the Legal Aid Society. Those conducted on weekends or holidays will be represented by an attorney provided by the county’s assigned counsel bureau. In all cases, a defendant has the right to hire a private attorney for the arraignment, via Skype, the online conferencing service the county is utilizing.

The district attorney’s office will be represented remotely during all arraignments, as well.



Carl Irace and Brian DeSesa are the attorneys from the assigned counsel bureau who handle East Hampton and Sag Harbor weekend arraignments. DeSesa represented Antoine Chappell March 29 in the first video arraignment presided over by an East Hampton justice.

“It makes sense,” DeSesa said of the new video system. “Other states like Florida are already using it.”

DeSesa said he received the documents concerning the arrest and the charges attached to an email from East Hampton Justice Lisa Rana. After reviewing the paperwork, he called police headquarters. Chappell was taken to a room separate from the holding cell he had been in.

Next came a key moment in the process: DeSesa asked the defendant if he was alone in the room. Chappell said he was, according to DeSesa.

The United States Constitution gives all defendants the right to speak to an attorney without the presence of police.

Once DeSesa had completed speaking with the defendant, he contacted Rana, then called the police back to let them know they were all ready to proceed.

The arraignment itself took between five and 10 minutes.

Chappell is due back in court in Central Islip on Friday, April 3.

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