An East Hampton man accused of stealing more than $125,000 worth of jewelry and cash from over two dozen East End houses pleaded guilty on Friday in criminal court, Riverside, to 13 counts of second-degree burglary.
Guards brought Justin Bennett, 35, into the courtroom from the nearby county jail, where he has been held since his arrest in October. He stood handcuffed before Justice Richard Ambro with his head bowed, admitting his guilt over and over, 13 times, as Rose Romeo, the prosecutor, questioned him.
Mr. Bennett told East Hampton Town police at the time of his arrest that he was addicted to heroin and had committed the thefts to feed his habit. Detectives took him on a tour of the town and he reportedly pointed out each house he had robbed. He targeted empty houses, he told them, looking for hidden keys, and sold what he had stolen to pawnbrokers in the city. He then bought drugs from a contact in Brooklyn, he said.
According to his lawyer, Trevor Darrell, the prosecution had offered Mr. Bennett a take-it-or-leave-it deal. He could plead guilty to 13 charges or face trial on all 27 counts on which he had been indicted, with the prospect of an very long sentence if convicted.
He will be back in court on May 13 for sentencing. Justice Ambro indicated that he would sentence Mr. Bennett to a term on nine years in prison, and Mr. Darrell said his client would likely serve at least eight.