The trial of a former manager of the Poxabogue Golf Center in Sagaponack on a felony charge of unlawful surveillance got underway Thursday in the Arthur Cromarty Criminal Court Complex in Riverside.
John W. Cortes, an assistant district attorney arguing the case, told the jury that Steven Lee of Ronkonkoma had violated the privacy of a 16-year-old girl when, on July 28, 2015, he took a single photograph with his iPhone through what was, effectively, a two-way mirror. "This was no accident. This was no mistake," Mr. Cortes said. "He made the decision to exploit this child for his own selfish reasons."
He said that Mr. Lee had stored the photo on his phone "day after day after day, month after month after month," until his arrest in October 2015.
The Poxabogue Golf Center is a public course owned by the Town of Southampton, which contracts for its management. It was closed temporarily following Mr. Lee's arrest.
The defense did not dispute that Mr. Lee took the photograph of the girl, who was seated on a bench outside his office, and kept it on his cellphone. James O'Shea, one of Mr. Lee's two attorneys, told the jury that Mr. Lee's taking the photograph was "distasteful, stupid, but not illegal," as she was seated in a public place.
The girl was waiting for her parents to finish a golf game on the nine-hole course. The photograph shows her with legs spread and one foot up on the bench, revealing her underwear.
The town's handling of the investigation, however, was an issue for the defense.
On Thursday, Mr. Cortes called five witnesses, including Howard Matheson, who was employed at Poxabogue at the time of the incident. He told the jury that Mr. Lee, who was his manager, had shown him the photograph on the cellphone shortly after taking it, and that the photograph bothered and disgusted him.
A couple of days after being shown the image, Mr. Matheson called then-Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst to complain. She was not in, so he left a message with a secretary. Two more days went by, and he discovered a recorded message from Ms. Throne-Holst on his phone. "We are well aware of it, and things will be taken care of," she said, according to Mr. Matheson. He later deleted the message.
This, apparently, was weeks before police began an active investigation. It appeared from the testimony that Mr. Matheson was the first Poxabogue employee to be interviewed by police, on Sept. 30, 2015, nearly two months after he had contacted the town supervisor.
Mr. Matheson said he had not called police after being shown the photo. Neither had another Poxabogue employee who took the stand, John Haining, who was an assistant golf pro there. Mr. Haining said during cross-examination by Patrick O'Connell, the other attorney representing Mr. Lee, that Mr. Lee had called the photo "a view from my office." He said Mr. Lee "was laughing about it. We said he should delete it. It is not a good picture."
Mr. Lee was arrested on Oct. 21, 2015.
Also testifying was one of the supervising police officers who handled the case, Sgt. William Kiernan, who read to the jury Mr. Lee's statement to police. "A girl was sitting outside my office. I saw a girl with her legs spread," Mr. Lee is quoted as saying. "I did it kidding around. It was more of a joke than anything."
The trial is scheduled to resume on Monday in the courtroom of New York State Supreme Court Justice John J. Toomey before a jury of six men and six women.