An unauthorized purchase of $40 worth of gasoline, which had led to a plea-bargain for an East Hampton woman to do community service, was aborted in East Hampton Town Justice Court last Thursday and her sentence changed to eight months in jail.
In February, Jasmine Stephens, 20, had driven a friend, with whom she had been staying, to an airport, when the friend gave her her credit card, asking that she use it to make a scheduled car payment. Instead of doing so, Ms. Stephens used the card to buy gas at what was then the Getty station at the intersection of Woods Lane and Baiting Hollow Road and signed the friend’s name, which has not been released. By doing so, she had allegedly committed several misdemeanor infractions, including forgery, identity theft, and petty larceny.
When her friend returned from the trip, she saw the transaction on her statement and contacted police. After confirming that Ms. Stephens had used the card, police went to arrest Ms. Stephens, but, they said, she resisted arrest. According to the court record, she put her hands in her pockets and said, “I’m not going anywhere.” Ms. Stephens then faced five misdemeanor charges.
In June, Sheila Mullahy, an attorney with the Legal Aid Society, negotiated the plea-bargain for Ms. Stephens. In return for a guilty plea to two of the charges, and a reduction from resisting arrest to harassment, a simple violation, Ms. Stephens was to be sentenced, at her next court date in August, to a certain number of hours of community service, or two months in jail.
When the day arrived, however, Ms. Stephens sent a fax to the court saying she was unable to get there. Justice Lisa Rana issued a bench warrant for her arrest. Brought to the court a few days later, she was released on bail with a new date for sentencing. The new date came, and, again, Ms. Stephens did not show up.
“You took this plea in June,” Justice Rana said last Thursday. “The court, the D.A., your attorney are all working for you for what reason? You don’t care.”
“I do care,” Ms. Stephens answered.
“You have to be here for your sentencing. You think this is all at your convenience?” the justice asked. Ms. Stephens did not answer. It was clear that the deal was off. Ms. Mullahy made a motion to vacate the guilty plea, but Justice Rana denied it.
“Eight months incarceration,” the justice said. She sentenced Ms. Stephens to two concurrent sentences for the two misdemeanors she had pleaded guilty to in August, forgery and petty larceny, as well as 30 days, also to be served concurrently, on the reduced charge of harassment.
She was handcuffed by an officer, who asked if she had brought a coat. “No,” Ms. Stephens replied, and she was taken away by a Suffolk County sheriff to begin her sentence.
In other court news, Joseph Cardinali, the 16-year-old Phoenix House resident accused of sodomizing a fellow resident at the drug treatment center in Wainscott, pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of assault in the second degree on Dec. 10 in the courtroom of Justice Barbara Kahn in the Criminal Court Building in Riverhead. He will be sentenced on Jan. 9.
Back in the East Hampton court yesterday, Steven Tekulsky handled his final case before assuming the role of Justice on Jan. 2. His client was in for a minor traffic violation. Afterward, soon-to-be Justice Tekulsky said to Justice Catherine A. Cahill, whose final day is today, “It has been a pleasure to appear before you for all these years, and it is an honor to be taking your place.”
While her court adjudications have ended, Justice Cahill will be in charge of any arraignments in the courthouse between Dec. 28 and New Year’s Day.