A Springs man arrested Saturday night on charges of drunken and unlicensed driving ended up spending almost four days in a holding cell at East Hampton Village Police headquarters on Cedar Street despite having bail posted by his family.
Wuilson Belisario Villacis, 40, couldn’t be released, Chief Gerard Larsen said yesterday, because Immigration and Customs Enforcement had placed a hold on him. The village holding cell is intended for use for a few hours after an arrest, after which a prisoner is either released or picked up by the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department. The chief called longer detention in the cell “inhumane.”
“He is being held in a 10-by-10 cell. There are no showers,” the chief said. The chief said that ICE has 48 hours to pick up a prisoner, meaning someone could be held as long as 96 hours because weekends do not count. Although ICE is a federal agency, the cost of housing someone because of an ICE hold is borne by local jurisdictions. Mr. Villacis’s food was paid for by the Police Department, which provided meals from local restaurants. “He got three meals a day,” the chief said.
Mr. Villacis was driving a 2003 Ford Taurus when he was pulled over a little before midnight Saturday on Main Street for allegedly failing to stay in his lane. Failing roadside sobriety tests, he was arrested.
Mr. Villacis is from Cuenca, Ecuador. His connection to that immigrant community was evident the morning after his arrest, as 10 friends and family members, who said they were from Ecuador, arrived at court for his arraignment. They sat in a tight group, with the defendant’s wife among them.
Mr. Villacis was represented by Brian DeSesa of Edward Burke Jr. and Associates. The lawyer was in court to represent another client but agreed to assist Mr. Villacis. “He has no priors,” Mr. DeSesa told Justice Lisa R. Rana.
“There is an ICE hold. I have nothing to do with it, and it has nothing to do with me,” the justice said. “I can’t tell from the paperwork I have the reason for the ICE hold. Bail is going to be set at $400.”
“Am I not allowed to go home?” Mr. Villacis asked. Mr. DeSesa explained the procedure. An immigration attorney would be brought in, he said, if and when ICE arrived to pick up the defendant.
“Who should I talk to in your family?” Mr. DeSesa asked. “Mi esposa,” was the answer.
After Mr. Villacis was led back to village police headquarters, Mr. DeSesa had a prolonged conversation with Mr. Villacis’s wife, who had been crying. Mr. Villacis was released Tuesday afternoon, over 90 hours after being arrested and more than 50 hours after bail was posted.
This is not the first time this has happened, Chief Larsen said. “I’ve complained to the state. Nothing happens.”
In two other ICE cases that The Star followed in recent weeks, one man ended up being held five days, the other for 21, after having served their sentences, and with no pending charges against them. In the first case, ICE declined to pick up the detainee. In the second, ICE eventually took charge of the man, then released him on bond.