An East Hampton man arrested on March 13 by East Hampton Town police on two charges of selling cocaine a year earlier was arraigned in County Court in Riverside on March 26 on an additional charge of selling cocaine and three charges of possession with intent to sell. All six charges against Moshé Stephens, 32, are class B felonies, which mandate prison time if convicted.
Eight friends and family members waited in the courtroom for almost seven hours for Mr. Stephens to be arraigned. It had been scheduled for the morning but was delayed by jury deliberations in a criminal trial.
“On three separate dates,” John Scarlato, an assistant Suffolk County district attorney, told the court, “he sold cocaine to an undercover officer, which was captured on audio.” Mr. Scarlato said police also had captured “set-up calls and text messages.”
It was noted when Mr. Stephens was arraigned on March 14 in East Hampton Justice Court that he had three previous felony convictions, in 2002 and 2006, for possession or selling cocaine. When Justice Lisa R. Rana said she could not set bail because of these convictions, he asked if he could plead guilty right away. “Absolutely not,” she answered. Mr. Scarlato asked that bail be set at $50,000, but acting Supreme Court Justice Mark Cohen, noting the presence of the family in the courtroom, among other factors, set it at $20,000. As of yesterday, it had not been met.
Mr. Stephens was represented on March 26 by Bryan Browns, a Legal Aid Society attorney, who pointed out that the charges went back more than a year, noted that his client had not had any further brushes with the law, and said he had been employed. The Rev. Dr. Connie Jones, an associate minister of Calvary Baptist Church in East Hampton, was among Mr. Stephens’s supporters on hand. She said she had been meeting him, offering spiritual guidance, in the weeks before his arrest. “He was broken. Now, he is ready to mend his life. He wanted to right things that he knew were wrong,” the minister said. Also meeting with Mr. Stephens on a daily basis before his arrest was Audrey Gaines, an East Hampton social worker who has counseled those with drug and emotional problems. “He has been coming in, one on one,” Ms. Gaines said about sessions with Mr. Stephens, adding that he had been making incredible progress.
“He was scheduled to be baptized,” his grandfather, Alan Glover, said. For years, Mr. Glover said, he had encouraged Mr. Stephens to start a journal. He had finally started one in recent weeks. “He was on his way,” his grandfather said.
He also questioned the timing of Mr. Stephens’s arrest. “Maybe I’m naïve, but last March?” he asked about the date of the alleged crime. “Why would it take so long? This isn’t super-spy stuff,” he said. A ninth person who had wanted to be on hand was reportedly Mr. Stephens’s great-grandmother, Oneda Dixon, who is 100 years old. She wasn’t feeling well enough to make the trip, Mr. Glover said.
Mr. Stephens is due back in Justice Cohen’s courtroom today, for the first of what could be many procedural courtroom appearances. His friends and family promise to be at each one.