Admitted Arsonist Found Unfit to Stand Trial

David Osiecki, who admitted to setting two fires last month, including one at a house in Bridgehampton, was deemed unfit to stand trial by doctors. T.E. McMorrow

The Sagaponack man charged with setting fire to a $34 million Dune Road house in Bridgehampton on April 19 has been found mentally incompetent to stand trial by several doctors, his attorney, Brian DeSesa of Edward Burke Jr. and Associates, said in Southampton Town Justice Court this morning.

However, Jacob De Lauter, an assistant district attorney, insisted that David Osiecki, 54, be examined by another set of physicians. “They are entitled to an independent examination,” Southampton Town Justice Andrea H. Schiavoni said about the request, ordering a four-week adjournment.

Mr. Osiecki has been held on $500,000 bail since he was arraigned on two arson charges, one a felony, on April 21.  “We don’t know if you understand what is happening,” the justice had said to Mr. Osiecki during the arraignment and she ordered a psychological examination.

“He really needs help. He is not mentally sane,” Mr. DeSesa said outside the courtroom. He questioned the point of a second mental exam. If it results in the same finding as the first, Mr. DeSesa said, Mr. Osiecki is likely to be turned over to the New York State Department of Mental Health and be institutionalized until such time as he is found to be mentally competent.

Mr. DeSesa said the prosecution would lose little by allowing Mr. Osiecki to be hospitalized: while the misdemeanor arson charge against the defendant might drop away, the felony charge would remain, with the prosecution able to seek an indictment at any time. 

Mr. Osiecki admitted that he set two fires in a 20-hour period, according to police. The first fire, on April 18, was behind a nursery on Hayground Road and was originally thought to be a mulch fire. His actual target, police said he told them, was a nearby cellphone tower.

The Dune Road fire was reported at 5:48 a.m. on April 19 at a house belonging to Ziel Feldman, founder and managing partner of H.F.Z. Group, a New York City real estate and investment firm, whom Mr. Osiecki knows. The seven-bedroom, eight-bathroom house was listed by Corcoran Group Real Estate in 2012 for $34 million.

That fire, which caused considerable damage, was extinguished by the Bridgehampton Fire Department with the help of the Sag Harbor, Southampton, East Hampton, and Amagansett fire departments.

Mr. Osiecki allegedly told police it took him three hours to get the blaze going. They said he left something with personal identification at the site, leading them to find and arrest him early that afternoon.

Capt. Chris Anderson of the East Hampton Police Department said it was investigating the possibility that Mr. Osiecki was involved in a couple of East Hampton-area fires.

In the weeks and months leading up to the fires, Mr. Osiecki had been repeatedly arrested by Sag Harbor, Southampton Town, and Suffolk County police, mostly  on petty theft and trespassing charges. There are several court-issued orders of protection from Mr. Osiecki in place for individuals on the East End, as well as for his daughters. While the Sag Harbor police thought he was homeless, he actually owns a large house in Sagaponack.

Mr. Osiecki displayed the same demeanor today as he had during his April arraignment, despite wearing leg chains, which could be heard on the floor as he shuffled into the courtroom. He looked slowly around with a beaming smile, making eye contact and acknowledging the few people in the courtroom one by one, with a slight nod of his head. He carried a decrepit accordion folder filled with papers, about six inches thick, which he placed on a table.

After the justice ordered the second examination and set a new court date, the attorneys exchanged legal jargon concerning the case until the justice spoke directly to Mr. Osiecki. “Do you understand?” she asked softly.

“Yes, I do, your honor,” he answered, nodding his head .

Afterward, as he was being led through the courtyard to a sheriff’s car to be taken back to jail in Riverside, a reporter asked him about his sanity. “I am very sane,” he answered, firmly, still smiling. Mr. Osiecki, a tall man with an erect, almost regal posture, clutched the folder in his handcuffed hands and crouched down as the officer opened the back door of the cruiser for him. The reporter asked if he had started any other fires recently. He paused. “Have a good day, gentlemen,” he said, as the officer closed the door.

Two men in the courtroom during the proceedings were private investigators, seeking clues to the whereabouts of a client’s personal property, which Mr. Osiecki apparently disappeared with in recent months. As clueless at the end of the court session as they were when  it began, the looked at each other and shook their heads.

Firefighters battled the blaze at a Dune Road house in Bridgehampton for several hours on April 19.Mike Heller/East Hampton Fire Department