Anthony Oddone pleaded guilty Wednesday afternoon to first-degree manslaughter, under an agreement with prosecutors, for the 2008 killing of Suffolk County corrections officer Andrew Reister, likely sparing him any additional prison time and drawing to a close what has been a prolonged and tumultuous case.
Dressed in a shirt and tie, Mr. Oddone, accompanied only by his attorneys, admitted in a Riverhead courtroom to killing Mr. Reister, who was working his second job as a bouncer, by compressing his neck with his arms following a brawl at the Southampton Publick House. Mr. Reister’s widow, Stacey Reister, watched the courtroom proceedings from the edge of her seat and let out a relieved, “yes,” after Mr. Oddone uttered the word “guilty.”
Suffolk County Assistant District Attorney Denise Merrifield, the lead prosecutor on the case, said during the proceeding that while her office was confident they could have convicted Mr. Oddone—for a second time—of the manslaughter charges, Mr. Reister’s family asked that they be spared the stress of a second trial.
A 2009 jury convicted Mr. Oddone of the same charge, though the conviction was thrown out late last year by the state’s highest court, sending it back to Suffolk County for a retrial. The jury acquitted him of the more serious second-degree murder charge.
As part of the plea agreement, Mr. Oddone will likely face a sentence of five years, four months and 16 days—time he has already served—plus five years of post-release supervision when he is sentenced on March 19. The first-degree manslaughter charge would otherwise carry a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison.
Mr. Oddone also forfeited his right to appeal both the guilty plea and his sentence as part of the deal. He spoke only briefly during the court proceeding, responding either “yes” or “no” to Judge C. Randall Hinrichs’s questions, and declined to comment further outside the courtroom.
“This was a family decision,” Ms. Reister said. “This was our choice. We all sat and discussed it at length, both sides, and we are all in agreement.”
Sarita Kedia, Mr. Oddone’s Manhattan attorney, said that given the circumstances, “We believe this was an appropriate decision for both parties involved.” She added that she expected Mr. Oddone would be able to move on and continue a productive life.
Last month, she said her client was living in Brooklyn and working in Manhattan, while also attending school.
On August 7, 2008, Mr. Reister, 40, was working part-time as a bouncer at the Southampton Publick House. Mr. Oddone was at the bar dancing on a low table with a woman. When Mr. Reister asked Mr. Oddone to get down, he refused. Mr. Reister then pushed him off. A fight broke out between the two, during which Mr. Oddone placed Mr. Reister in a choke hold, maintaining his grip even after Mr. Reister fell unconscious and while onlookers screamed at him and tried to pull him off, according to court documents. Mr. Oddone then attempted to flee in a taxi.
Mr. Reister, a father of two, was declared brain dead two days later.
Mr. Oddone had served five years of a 17-year sentence when he was released after supporters posted $500,000 cash bail two days before Christmas. Earlier that month a state Appeals Court decision threw out his first-degree manslaughter conviction, sending the case back for a new trial on grounds that the trial court had erred when it refused to allow the defense to remind a witness of statements she had made related to the duration of the choke hold, according to court documents.
After the incident, the witness told insurance investigators that she saw Mr. Oddone hold the choke hold for six to 10 seconds, but when the defense asked the same question of her during the trial about a year later, she said it “could have been a minute or so.”
The high court ruled that it was unfair for the jury to hear that “damaging” testimony without allowing the defense to make use of her prior, more favorable answer.
After Wednesday’s proceeding about 10 of Mr. Reister’s family members, including his widow, parents and brother, quietly applauded.
“These were my wishes, my family’s wishes,” Ms. Reister said.