A Suffolk County Court judge ordered Anthony Oddone, the upstate man who killed Southampton native Andrew Reister in a 2008 barroom struggle, released on Monday after supporters posted $500,000 in bail in exchange for his freedom while he awaits retrial on charges of first-degree manslaughter.
Mr. Oddone, 32, clutching a stack of folded clothes in his hands, was freed shortly after 4 p.m. from a side door of the Arthur M. Cromarty Court Complex in Riverside, adjacent to the Suffolk County Jail—where Mr. Reister had worked as a corrections officer. Mr. Oddone, dressed in clothes his family had brought him at the courthouse earlier that day, was met first, in private, by the attorneys who defended him at trial and successfully had his initial conviction overturned on appeal, and then by his mother and a large group of friends and supporters.
“I’m just very grateful to be with friends and family and loved ones that supported me through this whole thing,” Mr. Oddone said, outside the courthouse after his release. “Thank you, guys. Thanks, everybody, so much.”
Hours earlier, members of the late Mr. Reister’s family had left the courthouse with grim faces after Judge C. Randall Hinrichs announced that he would allow Mr. Oddone to post bail. Mr. Reister’s widow, Stacey, did not attend the hearing and said in a message that she was “too distraught to comment” on the day’s events.
Mr. Oddone is due to return to court on February 5, though Judge Hinrichs said that date could be pushed up depending on the timing of review by a grand jury and an anticipated indictment on the new manslaughter charges.
Just over five years ago, Judge Hinrichs had denied Mr. Oddone bail on two separate occasions when he faced second-degree murder charges in the death of Mr. Reister, 40, during an altercation at the Publick House. Mr. Oddone is accused of holding Mr. Reister in a headlock until he lost consciousness, and even after. Mr. Reister died three days later, never having regained consciousness.
On Monday, with their client having been acquitted of the murder charge at trial and having served more than five years of his 17-year sentence on a manslaughter conviction, Mr. Oddone’s attorneys argued that he only faced a potential nine years more in prison if convicted at a second trial and was not as substantial a flight risk, and thus should be released on bail.
“When the murder charge was there, he faced the possibility of a life sentence—there is the substantial incentive to flee,” one of Mr. Oddone’s attorneys, Marc Wolinsky, said prior to the bail hearing.
Mr. Wolinsky had represented Mr. Oddone pro bono for the past five years, and argued both appeals to the State Appellate Division, which reduced his initial 22-year sentence to 17 years, and the Court of Appeals, which vacated the conviction and ordered a new trial earlier this month. Mr. Wolinsky and other members of The Bridge, the exclusive Noyac golf club where Mr. Oddone worked as a caddy in the summer, are believed to have paid for the defense and also to have posted the $500,000 cash bail on Monday.
On Monday, Assistant District Attorney Denise Merrifield argued to Judge Hinrichs that Mr. Oddone should still be considered a flight risk, despite his short sentence and the money his supporters were willing to put up for him. She pointed to instances in the past where Mr. Oddone had violated probation on other minor criminal charges related to theft, as well as his attempted escape from the Southampton Publick House by taxi on the night of the fatal fight with Mr. Reister.
“This is someone with a habit of flight and of deceitfulness,” Ms. Merrifield told the judge. “And somebody else is putting up this money, and he’s been shown to be a thief. We know he will flee. We know because he has done it in the past.”
The district attorney’s office insisted that if bail were to be granted, it should be at least $5 million in cash or a $15 million bond. Ms. Merrifield also noted that Mr. Oddone had been ordered held on $500,000 bail by the Southampton Village Justice Court in the immediate aftermath of the fight, before Mr. Reister had died, when he faced only assault charges.
Mr. Oddone’s criminal defense attorney, Sarita Kedia, countered that Mr. Oddone’s defense sees the likelihood of his being acquitted at retrial to be good and that he would not flee. “The evidence in this case is questionable at best,” Ms. Kedia said.
There was a delay of two hours before Judge Hinrichs issued his final order on Monday while investigators determined whether Mr. Oddone had ever held a passport—he hadn’t—the forfeiture of which was a condition of his release.
The crowd of supporters who awaited Mr. Oddone’s hearing and ultimate release included one of the jurors from his 2009 trial, Frances Oka, who and been the final hold-out against a guilty verdict and said before the hearing that she had changed her vote to guilty only because of “something that happened in the jury room” and not because she was thought Mr. Oddone deserved to be convicted. Also in the group was Karen Dzus, who was an alternate juror at the trial.
His mother, Laura Oddone, sobbed when her son climbed out of the SUV that had picked him up at the back of the courthouse and ferried him to where the crowd of his supporters huddled in the rain.
“All I can say is, I’ll be glad to have him home,” she said while waiting for her son’s release.