Accused Arsonist Found Mentally Incompetent

David Osiecki
David Osiecki, accused in an April arson case, appeared in Southampton Town Justice Court on Friday. T.E. McMorrow

A Sagaponack man charged with arson for allegedly setting fire to an oceanfront house in Bridgehampton in April will soon be committed to a psychiatric hospital, where he may well spend the rest of his life. The Suffolk district attorney's office agreed Friday not to contest county doctors' determinations that he is mentally incompetent to stand trial.

David Osiecki, 64, was brought in shackles to Southampton Town Justice Court Friday for the fourth and likely last time since his arrest on April 19, the day of the fire. For the first time since his arrest, he was not wearing county jail-issued clothing. Instead, taking advantage of the right all prisoners have when they are taken to court to don street clothes, he was wearing worn-out jeans and a green short-sleeved shirt.

Southampton Town police reportedly found several personal items belonging to Mr. Osiecki at 187 Dune Road, the scene of the fire, including identification. He quickly admitted setting the blaze, which caused extensive damage. He also told police he had tried and failed to burn down a cellphone tower the day before.

In his courthouse appearances after being arrested, he made rambling statements to reporters about needing to get the artwork in the house to Norway and trying to save the owner, Ziel Feldman, whose son, he asserted, had been "abducted by the Israelis." According to police, Mr. Osiecki and Mr. Feldman knew each other, though it was not clear how.

On Friday afternoon, as he was led into the courthouse, Mr. Osiecki proclaimed that "I am innocent until proven guilty." As he was brought into the crowded courtroom, his ankle chain dragging across the floor, he looked around at those seated in the courtroom, apparently not realizing that almost all were there to answer zoning violations.

Standing at Mr. Osiecki's side, facing the bench, was his attorney, Edward Burke, Jr. "Just moments ago," Mr. Burke told Justice Andrea Schiavoni," I spoke with assistant district attorney Pete Timmons. He has indicated they will move to indict within two weeks, perhaps sooner. He is not challenging the evaluation."

The defendant did not appear to understand what was going on. Just before he was led away, he leaned over and asked Mr. Burke, "Can we talk with the judge in chambers, and can they reduce the bail"" Bail had been set during Mr. Osiecki's April arraignment at $500,000.

"We'll talk about it," Mr. Burke said, patting him on the back.

In the parking lot later, the lawyer said Mr. Osiecki's mental health would be evaluated from time to time in the hospital. If he is ever found to be sane, he will be brought back to stand trial.