The owner of a Montauk taxi company was charged with felony assault Saturday night after he allegedly used an electric stun gun on a potential fare. According to the alleged victim, John Bolaris, and his fiancée, Erica Smitheman, Mark A. Ripolone, 26, who owns Ditch Plains Taxi, was stopped outside the Gig Shack at a little before midnight, when the streets of downtown Montauk were filled with post-fireworks revelers. Mr. Bolaris and his fiancée had just left the restaurant.
“I asked the driver to take us to the Manor,” Mr. Bolaris told East Hampton Town police. “As we were getting into the cab, four other people started to walk up, and the driver said he was not going to take us.”
At that point, according to a witness who was with the other group, Mr. Bolaris opened the front passenger door and, leaning in, said to Mr. Ripolone, “You’re missing out on a $50 tip.”
Sitting in the front seat beside Mr. Ripolone was Kristy Roberts, who was given an order of protection against him in East Hampton Town Justice Court on June 6 after he allegedly choked herThe two have apparently reconciled.
“Everybody started screaming, and I heard the girl in the front seat say, “Close the door. Are you crazy?’” the witness told police.
At that point, all three agreed, Mr. Ripolone left his seat and walked around the minivan to Mr. Bolaris, who told police he punched him several times in the face. The witness from the other party, whose friends were now getting into the taxi, stated that he “saw him body-check the guy into the open door. I heard a buzzing sound. I’ve heard the sound a Taser makes, and it sounds like a zap.”
“The victim yells, ‘you tasered me,’ ” the witness continued, “and the cab driver grabs him and slams him into the back fender.” Mr. Bolaris, he said, fell to the ground.
Mr. Ripolone got back into the taxi, with the four new arrivals now seated in back, and drove away. “The cab driver said, ‘You guys all saw that. You know what happened,’ ” the witness told police. Mr. Bolaris appeared intoxicated, he said, “but I don’t think he needed to be tasered. A body check seemed sufficient.”
Ms. Smitheman told police what happened next. “State troopers pulled right up, and I told them the cab had just pulled away.” The troopers stopped the minivan about a half mile away and turned the matter over to town officers, who took Ms. Smitheman and Mr. Bolaris to where the cab was stopped, on Route 27 east of the hamlet, and arrested Mr. Ripolone.
Besides the felony assault charge, he was charged with criminal possession of a dangerous weapon, a misdemeanor, and physical harassment, a violation. It is the third harassment charge against him in the past 14 months.
In East Hampton Town Justice Court the next morning, Mr. Ripolone’s attorney, Trevor Darrell, claimed that his client had acted in self-defense. Ms. Roberts was in the courtroom, along with Mr. Ripolone’s father.
“He was defending me,” Ms. Roberts told Mr. Darrell. “The complainant was the initiator,” Mr. Darrell told Justice Steven Tekulsky. “We have witnesses who will refute the allegations.”
Justice Tekulsky set bail at $2,500, which Mr. Ripolone’s father immediately posted.