An East Hampton man with a history of drug and alcohol convictions may face significant jail time after being charged with felony drunken driving on Saturday morning.
Southampton Town police said Frederic Stephens Jr., 24, had been speeding and swerving before they stopped his 2004 GMC Yukon Denali on County Road 104 in Riverside. He appeared to be intoxicated, they said, and refused to take a breath test at police headquarters.
Mr. Stephens has two drunken-driving convictions on his record, including one last year in Madison County, N.Y. His driving privileges were never restored after those convictions, police said, causing them to charge him with a second felony, unlicensed driving.
He was also charged with a misdemeanor, because the Denali, which has been seized by the county, allegedly lacked a required ignition device that guards against drunken driving.
The legal morass in which Mr. Stephens finds himself is made worse by the fact that he is on probation, having pleaded guilty to felony drug-dealing charges in October 2015, following his arrest that July on a felony charge of possession of the party drug known as molly or ecstasy.
After the arrest, felony charges of dealing cocaine were added, the result of an investigation involving the East End anti-drug task force and East Hampton Town police. Mr. Stephens was in jail until his guilty plea in October. His attorney, Stephen Grossman, said at the time that Mr. Stephens took the plea, which included five years probation, because he wanted to spend more time with his newborn child. Probation came, however, with the understanding that Justice William Condon, seated in Riverside, could revisit it if the defendant had another serious brush with the law.
Mr. Stephens pleaded guilty in East Hampton Town Justice Court three weeks ago on an unrelated misdemeanor charge of resisting arrest, which happened in Montauk this past summer, outside the Memory Motel, after a Busta Rhymes concert.
Now, however, he faces far more serious charges. Because of his two felony convictions, he is not eligible for bail at the town court level, leaving Southampton Town Justice Gary J. Weber, at his arraignment Saturday, no option but to order him to county jail. The district attorney’s office has until today to obtain a grand jury indictment against him; if not, he will have to be released. In similar cases in the past, however, District Attorney Thomas Spota has placed a premium on obtaining indictments.
Mr. Grossman was again on hand to defend Mr. Stephens for his Christmas Eve arraignment in Southampton Town Justice Court. He entered a denial to the felony charges and a not-guilty plea to the misdemeanor on behalf of his client. A plea can be entered on a felony charge only after an indictment is obtained.
It was unfortunate, Mr. Grossman said by phone after the arraignment, that defendants with drug and alcohol addiction problems are jailed rather than treated. “They should build a facility that is just for addicts,” he said.