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Story - News

Dec 9, 2009 1:04 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Oddone trial waiting game: some tenderness among the tension

Dec 9, 2009 1:04 PM

A hallway on the fourth floor of the Arthur M. Cromarty Criminal Courts building in Riverhead has become a living room of sorts for two families this week.

While jury members deliberate the fate of one family’s loved one, and decides what justice is deserved for the other family, the relatives of Anthony Oddone and Andrew Reister are on pins and needles awaiting their decision—in the hallway. From the bright sunshine of midday, streaming mercifully through the floor-to-ceiling glass windows, to the dark, cold hours of late evening, nearly a dozen family and friends of the two men—one the defendant, the other the victim of the fatal struggle in a Southampton bar last year—stroll the hall of white faux-marble, florescent lighting and chipped ceiling tiles.

The players are nearly the same every day. Mr. Reister’s family: his widow, Stacey; her parents, George and Joyce Kuyava, and sister Susan Dean; his parents George and Halina Reister; and his brother Jim’s best friend, Peter Bernagozzi, and his friend and former co-worker Kevin Lawler; and, when school is out, Mr. Lawler’s teenage daughter Caitlyn. Jim Reister, the victim’s brother, comes on most afternoons.

Since deliberations began, Mr. Oddone’s corner has been represented consistently only by his mother, Laura Oddone, and Barry Skovgaard, an attorney and member of The Bridge, the Bridgehampton golf course where Mr. Oddone had worked in summers prior to his arrest, and who is thought to be helping fund Mr. Oddone’s hefty defense bill. Mr. Oddone’s girlfriend, Melissa Browne, Water Mill resident Arnie Amster, also a member at golf course where Mr. Oddone caddied, and a rotating collection of friends and relatives have come to sit with his mother each day, but often she and Mr. Skovgaard are lone sentries.

At one end of the hallway, news reporters sit with notebooks and cameras at their sides, heads bowed over the Blackberries and iPhones that connect them to the normal workday of their colleagues. One dozed on a bench on Monday, snoring softly, his head rested on a computer bag.

Attorneys and their clients breeze through the crowd on their way to one of the four courtrooms that open into the hallway, largely unaware of and unnoticed by the family members.

Like characters in some unending stop-action film, the waiting flock sit and chat in one spot, then shuffle their arrangements, switching between banks of armchairs and cushioned benches—sometimes even retreating into the courtroom to listen to other legal matters, if only for the relief of more supportive seating and softer lighting. From time to time, one or a couple of those waiting will get up and stroll the hallway, sometimes barefoot, glancing with slight smiles or nods at those from the other family they pass. When there is no sign of activity for long stretches some retreat outside for a cigarette break or, conversely, a breath of fresh air, with promises of cell phone alerts if something happens.

When the courtroom locks its doors for a lunch break, the crowd disperses into the parking lot or tiny cafeteria, then filters back in slowly an hour later, greeting each other with the same furtive but friendly glances.

Amid the palpable tension on both “sides” of the trial, there have been moments of tenderness. On Wednesday evening, after the jury had been deliberating for only about two hours, and as the family members began what would become their daily wandering routine, Mrs. Kuyava, Stacy Reister’s mother, halted her stroll in front of Mr. Oddone’s mother, Laura Oddone. She placed a hand on the woman’s shoulder and said, “This must be so hard for you too.” Ms. Oddone looked up wearily and nodded a thank you.

On Friday afternoon, with a large crowd waiting outside the courtroom, Stacey Reister, who has made no effort to couch her contempt for Anthony Oddone, gestured to the defendant’s mother to take an open seat between Ms. Reister and her late husband’s parents. The two sat in quiet juxtaposition, with brief exchanges of small talk, for several minutes.

When Judge C. Randall Hinrichs adjourns one of the occasional courtroom appearances by the jury each day the involved attorneys—Assistant District Attorney Denise Merrifield and defense attorney Sarita Kedia—retreat to offices in the building or behind closed meeting rooms to continue strategizing about how to handle the case as it moves forward.

Those with the most interest in the case, though, remain in the hallway.

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I see it is Mrs. Reister showing the compassion. Not the meembers of the bridge or Tony's moronic friends that litter this message board with falsehoods. Fitting considering what went down.
By HB 4 Life (72), Hampton Bays on Dec 9, 09 1:21 PM
2 members liked this comment
I have been quiet until now. I lived down the hall from Tony in college, and he was an overall good kid. he did have times where he let drinking effect his judgment, which I'm sure was the situation here. I was absolutely shocked when I heard he had "murdered" someone, because thats not the kinda guy he is. I would never say he was a saint, but I didn't think he had it in him to murder anyone.

While I feel for the Reister family, I also give Tony's friends a lot of credit for sticking ...more
By upstatesteve (3), Albany on Dec 9, 09 1:34 PM
1 member liked this comment
i implore the bloggers to just leave this story alone. nothing can be added.
By username1 (32), bay shore on Dec 9, 09 6:22 PM
1 member liked this comment
i agree, username 1, nothing can be added.

this tragedy makes me sad and also vulnerable to know that in a moment, a mere flash, any one of us can make a decision that changes our life forever. i don't believe anthony oddone woke up that morning thinking he was going to be responsible for the death of a young husband and father, nor did andrew reister have a notion that that day in august 2008 was to be his last.

i read someplace that andrew reister liked golf. it's known that ...more
By concerned east ender (49), Sag Harbor on Dec 9, 09 9:34 PM
2 members liked this comment
Username1 is all of a sudden asking bloggers to leave this alone after her many, insensitive, ignorant, and incendiary comments?
Please Username1, heed your own advice.
By LocalTeacher (23), Southampton on Dec 10, 09 12:38 PM
2 members liked this comment
Peace on Earth.
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Dec 10, 09 1:20 PM
1 member liked this comment
HB I understand your grief...but your posts are not much better than some of the post left here by alleged Oddone supporters. All of us including you should try to refrain from name calling and insults. To me, it demeans Andy's memory. Its hard not to retaliate, but sometimes the best weapon against the kind of ignorance I've seen posted here, is to ignore it.
By pstevens (406), Wilmington on Dec 10, 09 4:50 PM
My God, you people are relentless! I mean all of you! Spewing hatred, name calling, anger, for what? what does it change? The whole thing is a tragedy, that cannot be undone. Constantly disputing the "facts" is not going to change what happened, or effect what is going to happen. If anything, the lesson here is to have more tolerance, more compassion, and less judgement for our fellow human beings, need I go on? What has gone on in these blogs, is this what we want to teach our children? No matter ...more
By teeteeme (11), Water Mill on Dec 11, 09 12:13 AM