A man who lives near the Southampton Elementary School was arrested on Wednesday, April 16, and charged with criminal trespass, a misdemeanor, for trying to enter the building after police warned him to keep his distance from school grounds.
Sean M. Byrnes, 54, who has repeatedly been told to stay away from the school, was released from Suffolk County Jail in Riverhead on Monday, five days after he was arrested, according to Southampton Village Police Chief William Wilson Jr. Chief Wilson explained that Mr. Byrnes told authorities that second-graders at the school were taunting him just prior to his arrest, leading police to be concerned about his mental health.
According to the arrest report, Mr. Byrnes told police: “The kids are telling me that I smoke marijuana, and I went there to tell them to stop. I wanted to speak to someone about this. I want this to stop.”
There was no evidence that any students taunted him, Chief Wilson said.
Previously, Mr. Byrnes had approached children at the playground, said J. Richard Boyes, superintendent of the Southampton School District. “He came up to the fence and called two kids over to complain about the noise,” he said.
Even though Mr. Byrnes was on the other side of the fence at the time, he still made the students nervous, the superintendent said.
Mr. Byrnes was released on his own recognizance on Monday, but only after he agreed to check into the psychiatry department at Eastern Long Island Hospital in Greenport upon his release, Chief Wilson said. Village Police officers escorted Mr. Byrnes from the county jail to the mental health facility.
“If and when he is released, I am obligated to contact Chief Wilson and the court, who then in turn would contact the school district,” said Colin Astarita, Mr. Byrnes’s attorney.
Mr. Astarita said Mr. Byrnes has been depressed since his partner, Francesco Scavullo, a fashion photographer, died in 2004 of heart failure. “After a 30-year relationship, anyone would be depressed,” Mr. Byrnes said.
An order of protection has also been issued officially barring Mr. Byrnes from approaching school district property and employees.
Mr. Byrnes has agreed to obey the order, Mr. Astarita said, adding that his client has been living in a home that abuts the playground for more than 20 years without incident.
Dr. Boyes emphasized that the school is not accusing anyone of threatening the children, but “in this day and age,” he said, “adults shouldn’t walk up to kids they don’t know and initiate conversation.”