Despite having his bail lowered Friday morning, the Flanders man charged with DWI after police say he struck and killed a 55-year-old woman with his pickup truck in Hampton Bays nearly two weeks ago remains behind bars.
Southampton Town Justice Court Judge Barbara Wilson ruled that 30-year-old Joseph Perez, who has only been charged with one misdemeanor and one violation to date, would have to pay $175,000 cash bail or a $250,000 bond in order to be released from custody. Originally, his bail was set at $250,000 cash or $500,000 bond. His family had not posted either as of Tuesday.
The prosecution also introduced blood test results during Friday’s court proceedings revealing that Mr. Perez’s blood-alcohol level on the morning of the fatal accident was 0.20 percent at the time of his arrest—or two and a half times the legal limit of 0.08 percent.
Southampton Town Police said Mr. Perez fatally struck Donna Sartori of Middle Island, a newspaper deliverywoman, with his Ford pickup truck at about 4:20 a.m. on January 5 while she was delivering that day’s edition of the New York Daily News. He has not been charged in relation to Ms. Sartori’s death, though additional charges could be forthcoming.
Lane Bubka, the attorney representing Mr. Perez, and town prosecutors both said in court on Friday that a grand jury has convened and that additional charges could be filed against Mr. Perez, possibly before the end of the week. Representatives from the Suffolk County district attorney’s office declined this week to confirm if a grand jury has been empaneled.
Mr. Perez’s family is still trying to gather enough money to post bond, which would require them to pay only a percentage of the total amount, Mr. Bubka explained on Friday afternoon.
Mr. Bubka said the reduced bond was still excessive because his client faced only a misdemeanor DWI charge and a violation for failing to maintain his lane. But prosecutors argued that because the accident resulted in a death, and due to the fact that Mr. Perez had a prior felony conviction on his record, the bond should have remained at $500,000.
In 2006, Mr. Perez was sentenced to five years’ probation for criminal possession of a weapon, Mr. Bubka said, adding that his court and probation attendance records are further proof that he is not a flight risk.
“He completed his probation as an exceptional candidate, with high regard from his probation officer,” Mr. Bubka said. “The fact that he does have a record is further proof that he should be given a reduced bond.”
Members of Mr. Perez’s family were in attendance Friday morning and said they were trying to find a bail bondsman that would help them put up the money to get Mr. Perez out, Mr. Bubka said. “I spoke to the mother this morning, and they’re not a family of significant financial means, and that’s something that’s supposed to be taken into consideration when bond is set,” he said. “It’s certainly not something they’d ever be able to post as a cash bail.”
Mr. Perez, who has a 10-year-old son, did not appear in court Friday because no one from the Suffolk County Sheriff’s office retrieved him from the Rikers Island Correctional Facility in Queens, where he was being held because the Suffolk County Jail in Riverside was at capacity. Mr. Bubka said he contacted the sheriff’s office last Thursday, January 9, to organize transportation for his client, and has not been given a reason as to why Mr. Perez was not picked up.
Mr. Bubka said he expected a grand jury hearing to be called on Wednesday, January 15, but was unsure if his client would want to testify because he hasn’t been able to get in contact with him since his incarceration.
Mr. Perez is due back in Southampton Town Justice Court at 9 a.m. on Thursday, January 16.
Hampton Bays residents Lynn and Karen Murcott are now offering a $1,000 reward to whoever finds BamBam, Ms. Sartori’s black-and-white shih tzu that was in her car at the time of the accident. The dog went missing immediately after the early morning accident and her family has been searching for BamBam with the assistance of hamlet residents, like Leslie Kappel, a volunteer at the Wildlife Rescue Center of the Hamptons.
Anyone who finds the dog is asked to bring it to the Southampton Animal Shelter on Jackson Avenue in Hampton Bays.