A Sagaponack man is being held on $500,000 bail and has been ordered to undergo psychiatric evaluation after being accused of setting fire on Saturday to a $34 million Dune Road house in Bridgehampton.
David Osiecki, 54, was arraigned on Monday in Southampton Justice Court, two days after being charged with arson as a felony. Justice Andrea Schiavoni declined to issue an order of protection for the owner of the house, which is routine, until the results of the evaluation are known. “We don’t know if you would understand what is happening,” she said to the defendant.
Mr. Osiecki, who was represented by Brian J. DeSesa of Edward Burke Jr. and Associates, told the court he had been hospitalized twice recently for possible mental illness, the most recent being for 33 days in Stony Brook University Hospital’s psychiatric ward. A friend of the defendant, who was in court, said Mr. Osiecki has been in declining mental health for the last five years.
The fire at 187 Dune Road, a two-story structure, was reported to the Bridgehampton Fire Department at 5:48 a.m. Saturday. Heavy smoke was coming from the house when volunteers arrived. The rapid intervention team from Southampton was brought in to assist, along with an engine from the Sag harbor Fire Department.
According to the felony complaint on file with the court, Mr. Osiecki told the police “he started the fire and that it took him three hours to get it going.”
Mr. Osiecki is also facing a misdemeanor charge of arson, stemming from a fire in a mulch pile the previous morning. According to the complaint, Mr. Osiecki had been targeting a wireless phone tower near the train tracks and 219 Hayground Road. He reportedly said he had spent six hours building that fire, which was initially thought to have been a brush fire. Police are now investigating any possible connection between Mr. Osiecki and other recent fires.
One recent fire that police are looking at started and went out in Northwest Woods without the East Hampton Fire Department being notified. Capt. Chris Anderson of the town’s Police Department said a contactor working on a house on Northwest Landing Road called police on April 12, after discovering the remains of a fire in the garage, Captain Anderson said. He confirmed that the department was also examining the circumstances surrounding a fire that consumed a house in Amagansett last week.
The seven-bedroom, eight-and-a-half bathroom post-modern house on Dune Road had been offered for sale by Corcoran Group Real Estate in 2012 for $34 million. It belongs to Ziel Feldman, the founder and managing partner of HFZ Group, a New York City real estate and investment firm.
According to Alfredo Merat, a friend who was in court during the arraignment and who said their children had been friends, the defendant had dealings with Mr. Feldman in the past. “It is amazing what has happened in the past five years,” Mr. Merat said.
Mr. Osiecki had been arrested in March on charges of trespassing and misdemeanor possession of stolen property in Sag Harbor, as well as other charges in Southampton. He went in front of Justice Schiavoni on April 1 in Sag Harbor Village Court, where she also presides. At that time, he dismissed Sabato Caponi, an attorney with the Legal Aid Society, insisting that he had retained private counsel. “I have a letter from my attorney. I have it on my cellphone,” he said. He then demanded a trial, saying he had powerful friends in the press who would attend.
“I can’t talk to you if you are not represented by an attorney,” the justice said, ordering Mr. Osiecki to reappear in village court on April 15, a date he failed to keep. A warrant for his arrest was issued the next day.
Mr. Osiecki’s arraignment in connection with the Dune Road fire had been scheduled on Sunday morning after his arrest on Saturday. However, Mr. Osiecki told the judge that he was being represented by Edward Burke Jr. and wanted him at his side. The arraignment was put off for 24 hours, and the defendant was sent to county jail.
Handcuffed and dressed in a white plastic jail-issued jumpsuit on Sunday because his clothing had been confiscated by police as possible forensic evidence, Mr. Osiecki was let out of court by two officers, and stopped to speak with reporters outside.
“It’s Easter Sunday, and I’m taking a day of meditation,” he said in an authoritative, clear voice. Mentioning the owner of the Dune Lane house, he said, “His son has been captured by the Israelis.” He then gave the first names of the members of Mr. Feldman’s family, saying he was trying to rescue them and their artwork and get them to Norway.
When Mr. Osiecki was led into the courtroom on Monday, he looked at Mr. Merat, who was seated in the second row, smiled, and gave a little wave.
“Good morning, judge,” Mr. Osiecki said. He bowed his head with an almost beatific smile. When Justice Schiavoni asked if he was feeling all right, he said, “I’m in a little pain. My back hurts.” Justice Schiavoni set bail and ordered the evaluation. As he was lead away, he said, “Thank you, your honor.”
“He was always a caring man, a compassionate man,” Mr. Merat said. “He needs a doctor, he needs help. He doesn’t need jail.”