Given the Choice, He Chose to Go to Jail

    A Key West, Fla., man argued for — and won — an unusual way to beat the high cost of living in East Hampton last week: He got four days in the county jail, where the meals and beds are free.

    “I told the officer that people were harassing me,” the handcuffed Darren W. McPherson, 41, told Justice Catherine Cahill on June 23. “Why would he arrest me?”

    “You’re back on that matter we discussed two years ago, Sept. 9, 2011,” Justice Cahill replied. Mr. McPherson had been arraigned then on a charge of disorderly conduct after a verbal altercation with the police. He did not show up for his court date, and a warrant for his arrest was issued. East Hampton Town police executed it on the night of June 22 after their village counterparts picked the man up.

    “The locals out here all stick together,” Mr. McPherson complained to the court.

    “You came to court, you were arraigned, you’re supposed to come back,” Justice Cahill responded.

    She began exploring the man’s present circumstances in order to set bail. The 2011 charge was minor, a violation. He told her he worked for a landscaper named Wilson, though he wasn’t sure if that was his first or last name. “My goal was to get another paycheck,” he said, so that he could leave East Hampton. The justice said she was inclined to set bail at $500, with a new date in court of last Thursday.

    “I have money. I have $350.” Justice Cahill then lowered the amount to $350.

    “Maybe I should sit in jail,” said Mr. McPherson. “Money is precious. If I stay until Thursday, I get to keep my money.”
    The justice allowed that if he stayed in jail until the court date, he might be able to plead guilty to the 2011 violation and be sentenced to time served.

    “Then I’ll keep my $350 and walk out Thursday.”

    Justice Cahill shrugged, and raised the bail back up to $500.

    After spending the next four days in the county jail in Riverhead, Mr. McPherson was brought back to court last Thursday and pleaded guilty to the 2011 violation. He was sentenced to time served and released, with his $350 not quite intact; he had to pay a $125, state-imposed court surcharge.

    A 31-year-old East Hampton man who was arraigned that same morning, Guy Tibbetts, is still in jail, apparently also by choice, but for very different reasons. Mr. Tibbetts and his ex-wife, whose identity town police withheld, have traded arrests; each is accused of violating an order of protection held by the other.

    Mr. Tibbetts, over a three-day period, was arrested twice, with four charges leveled against him, on top of three others, all stemming from domestic incidents.  The first arrest, on June 20, was for criminal trespassing on June 8, as well as unauthorized use of a car, when he reportedly entered a North Bay Lane, East Hampton, estate and drove off with the owner’s Mercedes Benz, which was returned the next morning.

    It is not clear from the police report what Mr. Tibbetts’ relationship is to the owner of the car, but she is not his ex-wife.

    He was released after that arrest with a summons to return to court for arraignment on the two new misdemeanors.

    That future became now, when he was rearrested on the morning of June 23 on a more serious charge. According to police, Mr. Tibbetts entered his ex-wife’s house on June 22 and again June 23, despite having been ordered to stay away from her. On at least one of those occasions, he allegedly threatened her with a baseball bat.

    He now faces two more criminal charges, including contempt of court, a felony triggered by the use of a weapon (the bat) while violating an order of protection. The other charge is a misdemeanor, menacing with a dangerous weapon.

    At the start of his arraignment, Justice Cahill told Mr. Tibbetts that the Suffolk District Attorney’s Office had asked that bail be set at $10,000.

    “There are a set of charges,” the justice noted — seven in all, including the felony. She set bail at $2,500.

    Mr. Tibbetts turned to a woman who was seated in the courtroom. “Can you get that money?” he asked.

    The woman, his mother, nodded yes.

    But bail was not posted, and Mr. Tibbetts was brought back to court last Thursday from the Riverhead jail. The charges against him were bundled together, and he will return to court on July 11. By staying in jail, Mr. Tibbetts will probably get time served knocked off his sentence, if he admits guilt in a plea bargain deal with the D.A.

    A third man was brought to the courthouse from county jail last Thursday. James B. Lucas, 49, who was stopped for a traffic violation on West Lake Drive in Montauk on June 22, initially identified himself as Charles Robinson Jr., according to town police. But Mr. Robinson was an innocent “victim,” police said. In fact, Mr. Lucas was wanted on multiple warrants from counties across the state, including Suffolk.

    “There is a warrant out of Ontario County, a New York City warrant for D.W.I., and you tell me what the warrant from Shelter Island is for,” said Justice Cahill at his arraignment that same day. “You didn’t come back here last year for the pot and camping-on-the-beach charges . . . apparently, they’re going to give you a ride up to Ontario County.”

    Mr. Lucas said he wanted as early a court date as possible so he could deal with the other charges from across the state.
    “You do know the system,” Justice Cahill remarked.

    Mr. Lucas pleaded guilty last Thursday to the false personation charge, as well as a charge of driving without a license, and was sentenced to 30 days in county jail, minus the five he’d already served. On July 22, before he can be released, New York City, Shelter Island, and Ontario County will all have the opportunity to give him a ride to their own courthouses.