Montauk Employees Charged With Intent to Sell Cocaine

Jonathan Hernandez-Ruiz, left, and Elvin Silva-Ruiz, right, were led into East Hampton Town Justice Court Saturday to face felony cocaine possession charges. T.E. McMorrow

Three men, the driver of a Chevrolet S.U.V. and two passengers, were arrested on felony charges related to cocaine trafficking after a routine traffic stop in Montauk at about midnight Friday.

According to East Hampton Town police, a 2004 Trailblazer driven by Elvin Silva-Ruiz, 38, was pulled over on Main Street in front of the Shagwong Tavern because an officer saw the vehicle make an unsafe lane change and swerve across lane markings.

Police said that as Mr. Silva-Ruiz was being questioned, the officer noticed some small plastic bags containing a white powder inside the car. Additional officers were called, the driver and the passengers were searched, and were allegedly found to be in possession of small amounts of marijuana. The police then searched the car and reportedly found eight small plastic bags, one larger plastic bag, and several cellophane packets, the contents of which all later tested as cocaine, leading to the B felony charges of possession with intent to sell and possession of over an eighth of an ounce of the narcotic.

The men, Eddie Matos-Ramos, 31, and Jonathan Hernandez-Ruiz, 29, in addition to Mr. Silva-Ruiz, who had been additionally charged with driving an uninsured vehicle and a broken windshield, were brought to East Hampton Town Justice Court Saturday morning to be arraigned, but the proceedings were delayed by questions about legal representation.

As frequently happens on weekends in East Hampton, no attorney was on hand. Justice Steven Tekulsky spoke to Mr. Silva-Ruiz, the first to stand before him, through Ana Kestler, who is the head translator at the county court during the week.

Asked if he expected to be represented by an attorney, Mr. Silva-Ruiz, said, "I would like to contact one."

"Have you contacted one?"

"No. I have to call my friend to ask him because I have never been in trouble before," Mr. Silva-Ruiz answered. Mr. Silva-Ruiz was taken to a side room to call his friend, but the phones were down. When he was brought back to court, Justice Tekulsky said, "Sir, we can proceed without an attorney at this point, if you like, and I will protect all of your rights by entering a plea of not guilty to the non-felony charges, and a denial of the felony charges. However, if you wish, we can defer the formal arraignment until such time as you have an attorney. How would you like to proceed?"

"I'm confused. I don't know how you're going to protect my rights, " Mr. Silva-Ruiz said, adding that he has leukemia and asking about bail. The Suffolk County district attorney's office had asked that bail be set at $20,000, but Mr. Tekulsky said, "We're not at that point yet. I'm not telling you what you should do. I'm giving you a choice."

"I'm very confused."

"Because of your confusion, I'm not going to proceed."

"That's okay," Mr. Silva-Ruiz said.

Mr. Matos-Ramos and Mr. Hernandez-Ruiz had already told Justice Tekulsky they did not want to proceed. The men were taken back to police headquarters, from which Mr. Silva-Ruiz was able to contact his friend. Brought back to court the next morning, it turned out that each defendant had already engaged a lawyer.

Mr. Hernandez-Silva, with Christopher C. Brocato at his side, went first. He said he has lived in Montauk for the past two years and is a kitchen worker at Sloppy Tuna. Mr. Brocato briefly questioned the legality of the searches that led to the arrests, noting that his client has no criminal record. Justice Tekulsky noted that the defendant had some roots in the community, had retained private counsel, and set bail at $10,000.

Mr. Matos-Ramos was next. His attorney, Richard B. Stafford, told the court his client was a dishwasher at Arbor restaurant in Montauk. He had been planning to return to Puerto Rico, where he and the others were born. Although noting that the defendant did not have a criminal record, Justice Tekulsky said, "His roots to the community are much less significant," and he set bail at $15,000.

Mr. Silva-Ruiz, who was represented by Ian T. Fitzgerald, was arraigned next. He works in the kitchen at the Montauk restaurant called Navy Beach, has never been arrested, and has been in Montauk for the past few years. Mr. Fitzgerald also questioned the legality of the search. Bail was set $10,000.

Within an hour of the men being taken back to police headquarters, another employee of Navy Beach arrived with $20,000 in cash as bail for Mr. Hernandez-Ruiz and Mr. Silva-Ruiz, and they were released. No one, however, had posted bail for Mr. Matos-Ramos as of Tuesday morning, and he was sent to county jail in Riverside. The three are scheduled to appear in court on Thursday, but if Mr. Matos-Ramos is not indicted by a grand jury on the felony charges by the end of that day, he will be set free.