In a surprise move, Charlotte DePersia has decided to fight the allegation she committed a probation violation — in spite of a from the Suffolk district attorney’s office that said she would be sentenced Tuesday for drinking while on probation.
At Suffolk County Criminal Court in Riverside Tuesday afternoon, Justice William Condon set a June 5 hearing date for the 59-year-old East Hampton woman, who was put on probation after to a in Bridgehampton, in which she struck a vehicle carrying a Quogue couple and New Jersey couple, including a pregnant woman.
Defense attorney Tad Scharfenberg told Condon he needed time to gather evidence and witnesses to fight the allegation. Prosecutors say that DePersia already admitted to the Probation Department that she drank two glasses of wine while out in Montauk on March 10, registering a .039 percent blood alcohol content reading on a SCRAM, or secure continuous remote alcohol monitor, that she is required to wear on her ankle.
DePersia has at the Suffolk County Correctional Facility in Riverside in lieu of $500,000 cash bail or $1 million bond since April 10, when she entered a plea of "denial" at her arraignment on the probation violation.
Outside the courtroom, Assistant District Attorney Kate Wagner said prosecutors have been ready to proceed with a hearing since learning of the alleged violation, because there was no telling if she would admit guilt or fight the charge.
“We will call witnesses to establish she was drinking,” Wagner said.
District Attorney Thomas Spota is recommending the maximum of one and one-third to four years imprisonment.
Scharfenberg said that he seeks to prove DePersia innocent of violating probation — and said that even if she were guilty of drinking two glasses of wine on one day, the DA’s recommended sentence is not warranted. “I don’t think that deserves upstate incarceration, nor does my client,” he said.
He said that if DePersia were to be sentenced to incarceration, sixth months in jail and five years of probation is more realistic and customary. “Media attention had made it much more difficult for her to get justice,” he added.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving victim advocates Al and Roberta Ekberg were in court Tuesday to observe what was originally billed as her sentencing. Their son was killed in a drunk driving accident in 1991, they said.
“Everyone knows, ‘Three strikes and you’re out,’” said Mr. Ekberg outside the courtroom, referring to DePersia’s three arrests for driving under the influence of alcohol.
He said the biggest deterrent to driving drunk is prison sentences, and that is what he would like to see in DePersia’s case.