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Aug 22, 2008 3:58 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Both sides keeping quiet on murder case

Aug 22, 2008 3:58 PM

Both the prosecution and defense are remaining tight-lipped on second-degree murder charges filed against a 25-year-old man accused of choking to death a Suffolk County corrections officer from Hampton Bays inside a Southampton Village tavern earlier this month.

Anthony La Pinta, the attorney for the accused, Anthony P. Oddone of Farmingville, was mum this week. Mr. La Pinta, of the Hauppauge firm Reynolds, Caronia, Gianelli, Hagney & La Pinta, said Monday that he would not comment on the facts of the case or his defense strategy. He also declined to comment on “anything regarding Mr. Oddone,” including his client’s disposition or how often they are in contact.

Likewise, Bob Clifford, a spokesman for Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota, said this week that Mr. Spota, except on rare occasions, does not comment on court cases before they are heard. Mr. Clifford also said that his office has declined a dozen requests for interviews regarding the case.

Several factors have made the case high profile. The death of 40-year-old Andrew Reister—who died from his injuries on August 9, two days after Mr. Oddone reportedly used a chokehold on him inside the Publick House after Mr. Reister asked Mr. Oddone to stop dancing on a table—is being called the first murder in Southampton Village in 20 years. Village Police Chief William Wilson said that save a few DWI-related traffic fatalities, there has not been a murder or manslaughter charge in the village since May 1988.

The victim, a corrections officer and president of the officers’ benevolent association, leaves behind a wife and two young children.

Scores of Mr. Reister’s fellow Suffolk County corrections officers came to Mr. Oddone’s arraignment on August 20, so many that they filled the courtroom to capacity and many had to wait outside. Vito Dagnello, the president of the officers’ union, said they would show up in great numbers to every court date as the case against Mr. Oddone continues.

Some seven television cameras were there to catch video of the crowd of officers outside the Suffolk County Supreme Court in Riverside when Mr. Oddone was arraigned on two counts of murder in the second degree that were handed down by a grand jury last Wednesday, August 20. One count alleges that Mr. Oddone intentionally killed Mr. Reister, while the other states that he demonstrated a depraved indifference to human life. The two counts reflect potential prosecution strategies, and Mr. Spota has said that the prosecution would pursue only one theory of the case at trial. Each count carries a potential sentence of 25 years to life in prison.

Mr. Oddone pleaded not guilty at his arraignment and was remanded without bail to Rikers Island. He would have normally been held at the Suffolk County Jail in Riverside, but authorities moved him because Mr. Reister had worked at the county facility.

Mr. Reister was moonlighting as an ID checker at the Publick House on August 7, when police say Mr. Oddone attacked Mr. Reister after being asked to stop dancing on a table. At the arraignment, Suffolk County Assistant District Attorney Denise Merrifield said there were numerous patrons dancing on tables that night whom security staff asked to get down. “All patrons complied except this defendant,” Ms. Merrifield said of Mr. Oddone.

She also told the court that when Mr. Oddone attacked Mr. Reister, at least one patron grabbed Mr. Oddone and dragged him by the feet in an attempt to make him release the victim, but was unsuccessful.

In arguing that Mr. Oddone should be held without bail, Ms. Merrifield pointed out that Mr. Oddone fled the scene of the attack in a cab. She also said that when police stopped the cab minutes later, Mr. Oddone initially denied involvement in any altercation.

In addition, the prosecution said, Mr. Oddone is a flight risk because some of his colleagues at the Bridge, the exclusive Noyac golf club where he worked as a caddy, were from foreign countries. Ms. Merrifield said some of his friends at the Publick House on the night of the attack were Canadian citizens, at least one of whom is in the United States with an expired visa. Mr. Spota said some of Mr. Oddone’s co-workers are in the country illegally.

Ms. Merrifield also said that Mr. Oddone once fled Cobleskill when he was on probation in Schoharie County, New York. Mr. Clifford said Mr. Oddone was sentenced to three years of probation in August 2004 for a crime committed in October 2003. He pleaded guilty to petit larceny, after Cobleskill Village Police arrested him in February 2004, Mr. Clifford said. He did not know what the charge was for and Cobleskill Village Police have not yet responded to a request for arrest information.

Mr. Oddone is due back in court on the murder charges on Thursday, September 25.

Mr. Oddone’s friends who have spoken publicly have expressed disbelief that he could kill someone intentionally.

“He’s good guy, he really is,” said Holli Dayton, a childhood friend of Mr. Oddone, in an interview last week. Ms. Dayton, 24, said they met about 15 years ago and graduated together in 2001 from Valley Central High School in Montgomery, New York. They lived in the same trailer park in Coldenham, New York.

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