Lester Says State ‘Stole My Dinner’

Family claims they are being targeted
Kelly Lester and her son, Will Bennett, stood by the roadside clam and oyster stand she was ticketed for operating. She said it seemed as if state conservation police were giving her fishing family excessive scrutiny. Russell Drumm

    Paul Lester and his sister, Kelly Lester, of Amagansett were issued summonses earlier this month by state conservation officers alleging fishery violations, including one citation that accuses Ms. Lester of operating a self-serve, roadside clam and egg stand with an improper permit.
    Ms. Lester said yesterday that a State Department of Environmental Conservation officer came to her property on July 8 when no one was home and issued the tickets. She said fish were confiscated, including “my dinner.”
    She said her brother’s fishing boat was boarded three times in 10 days after that. Dan Rodgers, an attorney from Riverhead who defended Paul Lester and his brother, Dan Lester, in 2010, said on Monday that a hearing date had been set for Aug. 18. He declined to discuss the recent case other than to say that it appeared the Lesters were being targeted.
    In September of last year, Daniel and Paul Lester accepted a plea arrangement with the state prosecutor at East Hampton Town Justice Court stemming from two felony and five misdemeanor violations. Each was charged with fishing out of season for fluke and porgies, and without commercial fishing licenses in 2008 and 2009.
    Each faced over $45,000 in fines. Both pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor and were fined $5,000 each. Daniel Lester is a former East Hampton Town harbormaster. He and his brother are sons of the late Calvin Lester and descendants of the Amagansett (Posey) Lester clan.
    If the case had gone to trial, their defense was to have been, in part, that as East Hampton residents they had the right to fish without a state license by virtue of the Dongan Patent of 1686. The royal writ founded East Hampton and guaranteed certain rights to residents, including the right to fish “without lett or hindrance.” The authority of the patent has been upheld in state courts on numerous occasions.