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Jan 13, 2009 7:16 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Man with giant hot dog guilty of littering

Jan 13, 2009 7:16 PM

An East Hampton jury found Springs resident Rian White, 53, guilty of five of six counts of town code violations Friday, including failure to maintain his premises free of litter and not having a building permit or a certificate of occupancy for a shed on his property at 11 Hodder Avenue. The jury found him not guilty of displaying a non-conforming sign: a six-foot hot dog statue, with arms, legs and a smiling face that he stores in his backyard.

Mr. White said he will appeal. He charged that Judge Lisa R. Rana had kept evidence from the jury, including the details of an incident in October 2007, when the town sent a crew to remove litter from his property but ended up leaving empty-handed, concerned about the legality of the operation. Two months later, Code Enforcement Officer James Smith returned to Mr. White’s property and issued a new summons for littering.

“I’m not necessarily a slob but I don’t think it’s right for the government to tell you what to do on your property,” Mr. White said outside the courtroom Friday evening, after the day-long trial, during which he wore a yellow tie depicting a little boy urinating. “I’m really bummed out about the littering thing because, I mean, I put my cigarette butts in my pocket. I’ve never littered in my whole life.”

Friday’s trial was the culmination of six years of battle between Mr. White, angry neighbors and the town. Madeleine Narvilas, the assistant town attorney who prosecuted the case for East Hampton, said that it had always been the town’s hope that Mr. White would plead guilty to the charges and “get into compliance,” so that the case would never have had to go to trial. Even after the jury was impaneled Friday morning, the town gave him one more offer to plead guilty to the charges and not have to pay any fines, as long as he remedied the violations.

But Mr. White refused. “If I pleaded guilty and they got that break, I think everybody suffers because you’re going to lose certain, inalienable rights. I don’t think what I’m doing is criminal,” he said Monday in a phone interview.

Neighbors of his who attended the trial disagreed.

“We’re pleased with the outcome,” said Vincent Wolfe Jr., the grandson of Mr. White’s 96-year-old next-door neighbor. “But what happens next? It’s the opening of the next chapter, if the town is able to turn this verdict into action and bring his property into compliance.”

Ms. Narvilas is seeking maximum fines, $1,000 for each of the five charges on which Mr. White was found guilty, and the requirement that all violations must be cleared up. The sentencing is scheduled for Thursday, March 5, at 2 p.m. in Town Justice Court.

Mr. White’s attorney, Trevor Darrell, described the trial as a conflict between what some may consider to be litter versus what others might consider as valuable items. “Just because you have things on your property, it’s litter?” Mr. Darrell asked during his opening statements.

Later, in an interview, he said, “I think the definition of what makes something litter in the town of East Hampton is highly vague. If it makes the property unsightly, that could be litter, but who says it’s unsightly—the officer who shows up? If you went and walked around the property, Rian could tell you what everything was and what he was going to do with it.”

According to the East Hampton Town Code, “the owner or person in control of any private property shall at all times maintain the premises free of litter.”

Litter is defined as “Garbage, refuse, handbills, newspapers and rubbish … and all other waste materials which, if thrown or deposited as herein prohibited, tend to create a danger to public health, safety and welfare or render the streets, private grounds or public places unsightly, including household waste and construction and demolition debris.” The code also gives detailed definitions of what constitutes “refuse” and “rubbish.”

The town’s prosecutor, Ms. Narvilas, called two witnesses during the trial, Ordinance Enforcement Inspector Joshua Stewart and Enforcement Officer James Smith. Pictures they took of Mr. White’s property were submitted in evidence to prove her case.

“There’s nothing subjective about these offenses,” Ms. Narvilas said during a phone interview on Monday. “The code enumerates them.”

“The town code has pretty strict regulations on how you’re supposed to maintain your property,” said Don Sharkey, East Hampton Town’s chief building inspector.

During the trial, Officer Stewart testified that he had visited Mr. White’s property on two occasions, the first time on September 14, 2006, in response to a neighbor’s complaint about the litter and debris on Mr. White’s property.

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The Supervisor's SS doing their photo ops. and generally harassing some starving artist who has no money to line pockets. Why am I not surprised? Thats how they operate over in Bonac.
By BruceB (142), Sag Harbor on Jan 13, 09 7:58 PM
Go Giant Hot Dog Man, Go!!!
By RealLocal (76), Bridgehampton on Jan 14, 09 12:39 PM
Obviously this person has mental problems. Living like this is a mentality. It becomes a way of life for these people. Unfortunately it infringes on the quality of life of others. Something should be done to stop this abuse to others.
By bayview (160), Southampton on Jan 14, 09 6:07 PM
I tend to agree with Bayview's comment. If in fact, White's property looks like a s***hole, it show's a lack of respect on White's part towards his neighbors and passers-by. However what the articles does not state is that two of the six jurors who convicted him are employees of the Town of East Hampton. That alone is cause for White's attorney to appeal the verdict. It will be tossed out, and White will be a very rich artist when he sues Bonac for civil rights violations!
By BruceB (142), Sag Harbor on Jan 14, 09 10:57 PM
typical East Hampton ! East Hampton ,Mastic what's the diffrence ?
By typical (63), southampton on Jan 15, 09 11:25 AM
i wonder who lives in eye shot of ryans yard to have this much influence on government resources a big waste of tax payers mula.one mans junk is another mans art.
By pinga (90), hamptonbays on Jan 15, 09 8:50 PM
i think they should relocate that happy hot dog to the roof of the East Hampton Attorney's office/trailer, as a trophy.

i wonder how much time and energy and taxpayer $$$ went into this "six year battle"? litigation isnt cheap!
By nicole (96), Hampton Bays on Jan 16, 09 1:19 PM
A 92 year old lady lives nextdoor to Ryan who as been basically turned into a shut it because he is such a pig. The stench from what ever garbabge he has back there is so bad that she could no longer use her own property. He hides behind the notion of being an artist, he is just a pig. All of the neighbors that live there are outraged and it was their collective voices that got this moving, not one, MANY. Ryan's property in total is only 0.19 of an acre. It is a disgrace that it went ...more
By vdog711 (2), East Hampton on Jan 17, 09 2:46 PM