East Hampton Town police working in conjunction with Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota's East End Drug Task Force on Thursday afternoon arrested an East Hampton man with two prior felony convictions and charged him with making two sales of cocaine last year, both class B felonies.
The only crimes more serious in New York penal law are class A felonies, which include murder. If convicted, Moshe A. Stephens, 32, faces at least a year in prison and a maximum of 25 years. Police called it an ongoing investigation.
Because of the two prior convictions, East Hampton Town Justice Lisa R. Rana told Mr. Stephens that he was not eligible to have bail set at the local level and would be held in the county jail until next Wednesday, when he will be brought back to East Hampton.
The justice asked him how long he had lived in East Hampton.
"All my life," he responded. Mr. Stephens, who appeared at times to be holding back tears, spoke quietly, his head bowed, answering most of the justice's questions with, "Yes, your honor," or "No, your honor," in a barely audible voice. He said that he had just started a new job and was trying to get his life back on track.
"Is there any way I can plead guilty today?" Mr. Stephens asked.
"Absolutely not," Justice Rana said, cutting him off. She explained the severity of the charges and told Mr. Stephens that, to protect his rights, he must speak to an attorney before making any legal decisions.
Justice Rana told him she would appoint an attorney from the Legal Aid Society to represent him. She added that she had contacted Legal Aid, asking if an attorney could be sent to represent Mr. Stephens for his arraignment, but the society declined, despite the high level of the charges.
After being arraigned, Mr. Stephens sat down on a bench set aside for prisoners. Two older women who said they were friends of the family spoke briefly with him. "This is something from last year," Mr. Stephens told them, looking down. The two women asked him who in his family they should reach out to. Mr. Stephens was uncertain.
The justice finished working on Mr. Stephens's paperwork and handed it to an officer, who led the defendant away.