Nathaniel H. Miller, an East Hampton Town Trustee accused of choking another man at a Maidstone Park beach barbecue last month, was cleared of the charge Thursday in East Hampton Town Justice Court.
"At the end of the day," said Daniel G. Rodgers, Mr. Miller's attorney, "baymen's justice was served."
Mr. Miller had been arrested by East Hampton Town police on July 12 after he placed a chokehold on Clint Bennett, a town highway department employee, who was also at the barbecue. Witnesses at the time reported that the two men had been arguing when Mr. Bennett challenged Mr. Miller by saying, "Do something about it," leading to fight.
Mr. Rodgers said the dispute was rooted in an incident dating back to 2011, when Mr. Bennett was charged, and later convicted, of arson for setting fire to a dory belonging to a fellow bayman, Paul Lester.
Mr. Bennett was convicted of the crime, and was sentenced on May 4, 2011, to 20 days in jail, as well as being required to pay $8,161 in restitution to Mr. Lester. Mr. Rodgers said Mr. Bennett failed to make that payment in full, leading to the dispute with other baymen. At least 25 people — friends, family members, and fellow town trustees — showed up in the courtroom Thursday in support of Mr. Miller.
"Our office has investigated the incident, and we do not feel we could meet the evedential threshold to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt," Sean McDonnell, the attorney prosecuting the case, told East Hampton Town Justice Lisa R. Rana, who then dismissed the case.
Outside the courthouse, Mr. Miller thanked his supporters for coming. "I am very sorry this all happened," he said.