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Dec 12, 2013 1:54 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Oddone Conviction Overturned By Highest Court, New Trial Possible In 2008 Killing

Dec 18, 2013 12:18 PM

Convicted killer Anthony Oddone could get a new trial after the state’s highest court last week threw out his manslaughter conviction and 17-year prison sentence stemming from the death of a Hampton Bays man, Andrew Reister, during a Southampton Village bar fight in 2008.

The state Court of Appeals overturned a 2011 State Supreme Court Appellate Division ruling that had upheld the conviction. The new ruling grants a new trial because State Supreme Court Justice C. Randall Hinrichs, who presided over Mr. Oddone’s 2009 jury trial, refused to allow the defense in the case to provide information to a witness to “refresh her ... recollection” about the duration of the incident with a statement given previously to investigators.

The witness, Megan Flynn, estimated at trial that the portion of the struggle she saw take place in the taproom of the Southampton Publick House to have lasted “a minute or so,” but had told investigators months earlier that she estimated the time to be less than 10 seconds. Judge Hinrichs would not allow defense attorney Sarita Kedia to remind Ms. Flynn of her earlier statements.

The court also criticized Judge Hinrichs’s decision not to allow Ms. Kedia to call to the stand a psychologist who would have offered testimony that witnesses to traumatic events typically overestimate the amount of time the event lasted when asked to recollect it.

On the basis of the missteps by the judge, the court undid the results of more than a year of preparation and legal wrangling, two-plus months of testimony from more than 50 witnesses, and one of the longest jury deliberations in Suffolk County criminal court history.

Mr. Oddone, now 32, was found guilty of first-degree manslaughter in December 2009. He was initially sentenced to 22 years in prison by Judge Hinrichs, just three shy of the maximum for such a charge. But in 2011 an appellate court—the same judges who upheld the conviction—ruled that Judge Hinrichs had been overly stern in his sentencing and reduced the overall time to 17 years. He has now served just over five years of that sentence, counting back to the time of his arrest in August 2008.

As of Wednesday, Mr. Oddone was still being held at Green Haven Correctional Facility, a maximum security prison near Poughkeepsie. But with his conviction now vacated, he is expected to be transported back to Long Island sometime this week or next to begin the new court proceedings. Among the first things those proceedings will likely address, according to his lawyers, will be the possibility of being released on bail.

“In terms of a bail hearing, I would expect it will be relatively soon,” Ms. Kedia, Mr. Oddone’s defense attorney at the 2009 trial, said late last week. “I do expect that the case will be called ... in the very near future. I would say, as a general matter, within a couple of weeks.”

Mr. Oddone was held without bail following his August 2008 arrest and throughout his trial, even after members of the Noyac golf club The Bridge, where he was a caddy, offered to post $1 million bond for him and take responsibility for his whereabouts. The same members are believed to have paid for his defense.

But the circumstances will be very different this time around, some local defense attorneys said this week. Mr. Oddone no longer faces murder charges and a life sentence—the first jury found him not guilty of second-degree murder. And with the reduced sentence—if convicted of first-degree manslaughter a second time, he could not receive a longer sentence than that imposed following his first conviction—Mr. Oddone would be facing a maximum sentence of slightly less than 12 more years in prison. That amount could potentially be reduced to nine years with good behavior.

“I think it is quite likely, yes, that he would be granted bail under those circumstances,” one attorney, who asked not to be named while commenting on an active case, said of the circumstances surrounding the newly revived proceedings. “The flight risk, as a judge would probably see it, is significantly diminished now. The D.A. will counter that in court, I’m sure, or ask that bail be set very high to, hopefully, put it out of reach of a defendant who doesn’t have a great deal of money.”

A representative of Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota did not immediately return a call seeking comment on the case.

Attorneys interviewed this week also said that Mr. Oddone’s legal team will certainly be pressing the D.A.’s office for a plea deal to avoid the time and expense, for both sides, of a second trial. But, one hinted, the D.A.’s office may be getting counter-pressure from the Suffolk County Corrections Officers Association, the union that Mr. Reister, a guard at the Suffolk County Jail in Riverside and a Hampton Bays resident, was a representative of when he died.

Vito Dagnello, the president of the union, would not comment on the organization’s position, other than to say that its members will again make their presence and numbers known in any new court proceedings. Nearly every court appearance, from Mr. Oddone’s initial arraignment in August 2008 to his sentencing 19 months later, was attended by a large crowd of corrections officers, often in uniform.

“We will be filling the courtroom again,” Mr. Dagnello said. “It’s a tragedy that the family has to live through this all over again.”

Mr. Reister’s widow, Stacey, and other members of his family declined to comment on the case coming back to trial.

The incident occurred on August 8, 2008, after midnight on a crowded summer “Ladies Night” at the Publick House. Mr. Reister, 40, who worked part-time as a bouncer for the Publick House when he was off-duty, had asked Mr. Oddone to stop dancing on a table. When he refused, witnesses said, Mr. Reister pushed him off the table, and a scuffle ensued. Mr. Oddone leapt onto Mr. Reister’s back and wrapped an arm around his throat, his feet off the ground, choking him with his body weight. Witnesses said he continued with the choke hold until well after Mr. Reister had lost consciousness and collapsed face-first to the ground, despite numerous other patrons trying to pull him off and shouting for him to let go.

A Suffolk County medical examiner said Mr. Reister’s heart stopped because the choke hold put pressure on the carotid artery and triggered the brain to stop the beating of the heart. He died after being taken off life-support at Stony Brook University Hospital three days later.

At trial, the prosecution labored to demonstrate that the amount of time that Mr. Oddone held the choke hold on the unconscious bouncer would indicate that he must have known it could kill Mr. Reister, and that he must have made a conscious decision to do so. The defense tried to cast doubt on the length of time the struggle took place, arguing that, in a short struggle, Mr. Oddone could have thought he was just defending himself against a bigger man and should not have been expected to comprehend the extent of the damage he was doing.

The jury came to the conclusion that while he may not have been consciously trying to kill Mr. Reister, Mr. Oddone must have been aware and conscious of the fact that he was causing the man great physical harm.

But the ruling from the Court of Appeals last Thursday, December 12, focused not on the facts of the case but on procedural aspects of the trial. Ms. Flynn, who was a waitress at the Publick House, was called to testify by the defense and stated in court that the portion of the struggle between Mr. Oddone and Mr. Reister she witnessed “could have been a minute or so.” But months earlier she had told investigators for the Publick House’s insurance company that she estimated the time was “maybe six to 10 seconds.” When Ms. Kedia went to remind Ms. Flynn of her earlier testimony, the basis for her having been called to the stand, Judge Hinrichs declined to let her do so. This week’s ruling noted that “the trial court ruled that Ms. Flynn had ‘given no indication she needs her memory refreshed.’”

The seven-judge Court of Appeals said that was in error, because of the amount of time that had passed between the incident and the trial—more than a year—and the fact that she had qualified her testimony to say it “could have” lasted “a minute or so,” and added, “I don’t know.”

The judges acknowledged Ms. Flynn’s testimony would likely have been inconsequential in the case since she witnessed only a portion of the struggle. But they pointed out that the prosecuting attorney, Assistant District Attorney Denise Merrifield, recalled Ms. Flynn’s testimony—exaggerating it as “one to two minutes,” actually—in her closing statements.

The judges said that in light of Ms. Flynn’s testimony having lent such weight to the prosecution’s testimony warranted vacating the conviction.

The Court of Appeals judges noted that the duration of the clash between Mr. Oddone and Mr. Reister was a key component of the trial as prosecutors tried to saddle Mr. Oddone’s actions that night with the hint of intent. But the judges also seemed to question whether the elapsed time should have been made such an issue by the prosecution. In discussing whether Judge Hinrichs had erred in barring a psychologist from testifying about witness perception of time, the judges said that in light of the facts relayed by witnesses, the amount of time should have been inconsequential in proving Mr. Oddone’s guilt.

“It can be argued that it was not crucial for the jury to decide how many seconds or minutes defendant held Reister in a headlock,” the judges wrote. “The evidence that Reister fell unconscious, that defendant still maintained a grip on his neck and that onlookers screamed for the defendant to stop and tried to pull him away without result, would support a finding that, however long it was, it was far too long ... The theory that the defendant’s purpose was only to defend himself might be rejected by a fact finder even in the absence of any evidence of duration.”

The appeal was argued to the court, which is in Albany, last month by attorney Marc Wolinsky, a well-known corporate lawyer and one of the members of The Bridge golf club who financed Mr. Oddone’s defense and had offered to post the $1 million bail. Mr. Wolinsky also argued the initial appeal to the Appellate Division that got the sentence reduced.

Last Thursday, Mr. Wolinsky said he was pleased that the court had seen fit to send the case back to the county courts, but expressed surprise at the reason the court settled on for vacating the conviction.

“We are extremely happy that the court recognized that Tony didn’t get a fair trial and we hope that on retrial he will get a fairer trial,” Mr. Wolinsky said from his office in Manhattan. “They reversed on the basis of the waitress. I was actually surprised.”

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Disgusting that they're even considering this. Insult to injury
By johnj (1024), Westhampton on Dec 12, 13 3:56 PM
Considering what? a re-trial? It seems a retrial would be "fair" as the judge determined and I don't how a retrial would change his sentence.

If you're referring to the potential for a plea as referenced below, well then that would be disgusting to consider:

The DA's office could take two approaches going forward. They could move forward with the prosecution and a new trial. Or there could be an attempt at a plea bargain that would avoid the time and expense of a new trial. Mr. ...more
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Dec 12, 13 4:19 PM
1 member liked this comment
Tony was always innocent. It was a tragic night and a horrific accident. Tony has been a scapegoat for five and one half years. There won't be a retrial because the State of New York can't afford it and they would not win anyways. Tony was thrown off a table first. It was self defense. Tony is innocent.
By ron sport (14), southampton on Dec 12, 13 5:12 PM
1 member liked this comment
Right, an accident that he choked him out. Please.
By dnice (2346), Hampton Bays on Dec 12, 13 5:40 PM
Mr. Sporten is in dreamland. He does not realize that his comments, however ridiculous, are read by the family of Mr. Reister and cause them further grief. However, the state WILL prosecute this case again and Mr. Oddone WILL be convicted again because Mr. Oddone choked a good, hard working, family man to death. We should not give any of Mr. Sporten's comments any credence as his grasp of the legal system is flawed as evidenced by the many the frivolous lawsuits he continually files.
By HB 4 Life (72), Hampton Bays on Dec 12, 13 5:52 PM
2 members liked this comment
How dare you ignore Tony, his family and his friends who read your ridiculous cruel comments like some angry mob with no idea what happened that night. I know Tony is innocent because I was in the police station and heard witness testimony that morning. Then I heard them change statements on the stand. Witnesses lied and Tony is innocent.

By ron sport (14), southampton on Dec 12, 13 6:08 PM
Right, eye witness testimony is unreliable unless you are the eye witness. Got it.
By dnice (2346), Hampton Bays on Dec 12, 13 7:05 PM
"Tony is innocent". Innocent of what? There's no disputing that he put Mr. Reister in a chokehold, and as a result Mr. Reister died. Those are the facts...

Also, even if it was "self defense" why did he get in a cab and flee the scene after killing another person? That alone is grounds for jail if you ask me (note: I'm not a judge)
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Dec 12, 13 9:49 PM
He ain't innocent of dancing on a table like a jack***, that's for sure.
Dec 12, 13 10:39 PM appended by Mr. Z
And it bears mentioning that at no time did Mr. Reister use deadly force. The same cannot be said of Mr. Oddone...
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Dec 12, 13 10:39 PM
1 member liked this comment
Yup. You ever known a choke hold to be a sign of affection? Choke + dead guy = homicide. Everything else is smoke.
By double standard (1506), Remsenburg on Dec 12, 13 11:15 PM
Tony is alive...
By pstevens (406), Wilmington on Dec 16, 13 2:15 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By HB90 (164), southampton on Dec 17, 13 2:58 PM
Oh Jesus Christ. Get a grip. Innocent of what? This is not a question of identity. He killed a man. A family man with a wife and little kids who was trying to make some extra money working security at a local restaurant on ladies night.

You are stating that he was justified in doing so. You should be ashamed of yourself.
By ex-pat (49), East Quogue on Dec 19, 13 9:05 PM
Why does how long it happened for matter?

Damage done. A man is dead, he's responsible for the choke hold that did it. Ten second, twenty seconds, doesn't matter. He choked the man out and all they are looking for is to reduce his time behind bars.
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Dec 12, 13 4:41 PM
2 members liked this comment
would the re-trial include the murder charge that he was acquitted of or only the manslaughter charge he was convicted of? many more years of memories that are not correct and/or recollections not being what they were years ago. too bad. prayers to the Reister family.
By xtiego (698), bridgehampton on Dec 12, 13 4:44 PM
No. He was acquitted of that charge. Jeopardy attaches and they can't retry him. Most then can seek is the same charge on which he was convicted.
By ex-pat (49), East Quogue on Dec 19, 13 9:07 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By islander6615 (133), hampton bays on Dec 12, 13 5:43 PM
2 members liked this comment
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By islander6615 (133), hampton bays on Dec 12, 13 5:46 PM
Unreal that the victims family has to relive this all over again....the justice system is all for the criminals, I hope in the end he remains behind bars!!! My thoughts go out to the Reister family.......
By rjhdad (73), southampton on Dec 12, 13 7:06 PM
1 member liked this comment
He killed a man! Regardless of how long the choke hold was the End result he killed someone. Intentional or not a man is still dead. Andrew's Children have no father, wife has no husband. Anthony has to pay for what he did. He has changed the lives of others for eternity and not for the better. Anthony needs to stay in jail and suffer. My thoughts go out to the Reister family ....
By lifesaver (118), speonk on Dec 12, 13 7:42 PM
Do you know how hard it is to have your case accepted to be heard by this level of appeals court? And then to have them grant a retrial? And for that decision to be unanimously agreed upon by all 7 judges? It must be obvious, when you remove emotion, that the trial was unfair from the start.
By FOTO (36), Lake Grove on Dec 12, 13 8:33 PM
3 members liked this comment
Doesn't mean that he is not guilty, just that the Judge screwed up. Technicalities.
By dnice (2346), Hampton Bays on Dec 12, 13 9:10 PM
He's just lucky his record couldn't be introduced. His "rap sheet" includes a "bar room brawl".

But he's a "good boy". Right...
Dec 12, 13 10:59 PM appended by Mr. Z
And we can guarantee you one thing is takes to get your case that far up the steps of the system. A ****load of money...
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Dec 12, 13 10:59 PM
It doesn't hurt that he has some of the best lawyers money could buy. He should be thankful for the deep pockets of the Bridge's golf club members.
By razza5350 (1911), East Hampton on Dec 13, 13 4:04 AM
maybe the only thing some of these defenders need is their own 'refreshing of the memory' as to what constitutes self defense...because it wasn't
By redbeard (1), southampton on Dec 12, 13 9:01 PM
. he diid kill someone and he needs to be locked up . he is a danger to society and if allowed he will kill again.
By local (106), north sea on Dec 12, 13 9:32 PM
Seriously? Let the courts decide, but don't make the guy a serial killer, local. You are being a tad over the top.
By double standard (1506), Remsenburg on Dec 12, 13 11:11 PM
3 members liked this comment
I hope those billionaires who are financing his legal team will be able to live
with themselves. Maybe, it will affect their golf game at the Bridge. This is a travesty of justice! Mr. Oddone needs to pay for his crime. I hope the District
Attorney prosecutes him to the fullest extent, and he is given the appropriate
sentence for his crime. My heartfelt sympathies to the entire family of the late
Andrew Reister.
By Jimion (129), Hampton Bays on Dec 12, 13 10:49 PM
I dont know how the lawyer who took the case can live with himself. Turning over a conviction based on a bs technicality. Horrible news. This isnt a win mr lawyer. No pride here. Just proves that it is a two tiered system and those with big bucks are treated differently that us joes.
By North Sea Citizen (568), North Sea on Dec 13, 13 6:52 AM
1 member liked this comment
Court of Appeals did not like the flavor of this conviction.

It knew that a holdout juror's son was arrested during deliberations.

It knew and commented on the fact that the courtroom was packed with corrections officers, a potential source of intimidation.

It knew that the prosecutor, in her closing argument, misstated Ms Flynn's testimony given at trial, and that the prosecutor, with the approval of the trial judge, prevented the defense from asking Flynn about her earliest ...more
By Publius (358), Westhampton Beach on Dec 13, 13 9:00 AM
2 members liked this comment
Every time I see this guys picture in the news, I get sick to my stomach. Let the Reister family have some peace. The only good thing to come from this Would be Oddone now getting the film sentence he deserves. It's disgusting that the courts cater to high power attorneys that are in bed with a murderer.
By sparkhampton (27), Hampton Bays on Dec 13, 13 9:08 AM

1. To be a scapegoat means that someone else did it and you are being held responsible.
2. Innocence is not really the term here. You are charged and you plead "guilty" or "not guilty". No one pleads innocent or is found as such*

* Exception The Duke lax case. there it was used with purpose

3. A man died as a cause of Oddone's actions. Manslaughter would be the right charge.

4. As a practical point, what grown man dances on a table? Was he all ...more
By Hambone (514), New York on Dec 13, 13 11:44 AM
2 members liked this comment
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Dec 13, 13 12:36 PM
The defendant was dancing on a table at the Public house. The Bouncer asked him to stop and he wouldn't. So the bouncer pushes him off the table onto the floor. Last time I looked in NY State a bouncer doesn't have the right to throw one off a table for dancing. What if the defendant hit his head, and died would have that force been justified? I'm not saying a choke hold killing someone was by any means justified. Throwing someone to the ground for dancing on a table isn't either. I don't think ...more
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Dec 13, 13 11:36 PM
2 members liked this comment
You started out fine with your first two sentences, Chief, before your creative juices kicked in.

"So the bouncer pushes him off the table onto the floor."

"...a bouncer doesn't have the right to throw one off a table..."

"Throwing someone to the ground for dancing on a table..."

Creating your own scenario with "facts" not in evidence does not help your argument. The violent confrontation was initiated by Oddone.
By VOS (1241), WHB on Dec 14, 13 12:19 AM
1 member liked this comment
So let me get this straight the defendent wasn't pushed off the table? Its legal to throw one off a table? What I stated was part of the testimony. Maybe you should research a little , and understand what happened by eye witness accounts. A bouncer has no police powers in NY State. PERIOD I'm not saying the guy deserved
to die just stating some facts.
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Dec 14, 13 12:50 AM
2 members liked this comment
The correctness of Mr. Reister's actions are irrelevant. He held a man in a choke hold until he died. Even giving Oddone every benefit of the doubt, self defense fails the second he holds Reister for a moment too long. That's exactly what the COA said. You don't need the minute to two minutes. Mr. Reister, unconscious, with people yelling at Oddone to get off, by itself negates any misguided notion of self defense.
By ex-pat (49), East Quogue on Dec 19, 13 9:11 PM
Updated article has factual timeline.
By Nero (301), Sag Harbor on Dec 14, 13 4:15 AM
Acting like a fool and getting pushed off of a table does not justify CHOKING SOMEONE TO DEATH!!!! Period , end of story.
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Dec 14, 13 7:46 AM
1 member liked this comment
That is not self defense. The defendant had no reason to assume that his life was in danger because a bouncer pushed him off of a table. He was embarrassed and lashed out by attacking the bouncer and placing a lethal choke hold on him. Anyone who has ever been trained on performing this choke hold knows that it is deadly. Self defense only works as a defense if you feel your life is in danger, not your reputation.
By dnice (2346), Hampton Bays on Dec 14, 13 7:52 AM
1 member liked this comment
Working in a bar is dangerous. A bar is filled with drunken fools who make asses out of themselves. I don't understand why someone didn't help Mr Reister when he was in the choke hold. I don't think the defendent was trying to kill Mr Reister. 17 years is a long time to go to jail for criminally negligent homicide.
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Dec 14, 13 9:02 AM
3 members liked this comment
Fight or flight. This incident was over in minutes and most people will freeze in the moment, content to become bystanders. It isn't until later when you run the events over in your mind that you can consider what you "could" have done. All it would have taken was one courageous person and this whole incident could have been avoided.
By dnice (2346), Hampton Bays on Dec 14, 13 12:01 PM
1 member liked this comment
He was convicted of manslaughter in the first degree. It carries up to 25 years.
By HB90 (164), southampton on Dec 17, 13 3:00 PM
Martinspike et al

Don't lose any more sleep over it. Yes, it's a tremendous waste of time and money but he killed a man and the outcome will be the same, only the length of sentence may change.

By Q333 (161), Southampton on Dec 14, 13 11:49 AM
1 member liked this comment
like us little people would get into The Bridge
By xtiego (698), bridgehampton on Dec 21, 13 5:52 PM