A Southampton man who has five prior arrests on driving while intoxicated charges is facing new felony counts of drunken and unlicensed driving after being arrested by Sag Harbor Village police late Saturday afternoon. Dirk L. Early, 57, was driving a 2006 Chevrolet Silverado pickup south on Suffolk Street when he was pulled over. Police said they had received a report of a domestic dispute that involved that vehicle. After being stopped, Early was asked to step out of the pickup, with police saying he was “extremely unsteady” on his feet. He did poorly on sobriety tests, police said, including the pre-arrest field breath test, which produced a reading of 0.23 of 1 percent alcohol in the blood. Placed under arrest, Early was taken to headquarters, where he allegedly refused the station house breath test. The field test is generally not admissible in court as evidence, while the station house breath test is. If he had taken that test, with the same reading as in the field, the charge would have been raised to the aggravated DWI level.
At Early’s arraignment Sunday, Sag Harbor Village Justice Lisa R. Rana reviewed his past arrests, listing one each in 1980, 1982, and 2005, with two more in 2009. Four of those five arrests were ultimately plea-bargained down to a driving with ability impaired by alcohol, which is a violation, not a crime. However, one of the two 2009 arrests resulted in a guilty plea in 2010 to misdemeanor DWI, making the new charges felonies, since they occurred within 10 years of that conviction.
Daniel Russo was his attorney for the arraignment. Russo said Early is a former member of the Sag Harbor Fire Department. “There was a call regarding a domestic dispute,” Russo said. According to Russo, Early was standing outside the truck, which his son, with whom he was having an altercation, had been driving. The son left Early, who then started driving to his Noyac Road residence before being pulled over, the attorney said.
Justice Rana took note of Early’s ties to the community, but also his record as she set bail at $5000. Early was in the county jail as of Monday morning.
A Northwest Woods man is facing the same two felony charges as Early after being arrested the night of June 26. It was the second time Oliver L. Dantes has been charged with DWI in three years. Dantes, 38, was behind the wheel of a 2002 Ford van on Route 114 in East Hampton, headed south, when he veered onto the shoulder and rear-ended a 2007 Ford Suburban which had been pulled over to the side of the road by its driver. According to the charges, Dantes then tried to drive away. He was soon stopped by police.
He appeared to be extremely intoxicated, telling police he was “wasted,” according to the report. Placed under arrest on a drunken driving charge, he complained of chest pain, and was taken to Southampton Hospital, where he was treated and released to the police. He refused to take a test to determine the level of alcohol in his blood, the police said.
Because of his 2016 misdemeanor drunken driving conviction, Dantes was charged at the felony level, along with a charge of driving a car not equipped with an ignition interlock device, required because of the 2016 conviction. That charge is a misdemeanor. He also was charged with leaving the scene of an accident.
Dantes was arraigned last Wednesday, and was released after posting $2,500 bail. “I am suspending your non-existent driving privilege,” East Hampton Town Justice Steven Tekulsky said before setting bail. He warned Dantes that if police charged him with unlicensed driving again, and he was convicted, he would send him to jail. “Based on what is in front of me, you may go to jail, anyway,” Justice Tekulsky said.
Justice Rana also arraigned three men who had been arrested by East Hampton Town police on misdemeanor DWI charges on Sunday in East Hampton Town Justice Court. Stephen Taylor Early, 26, of Sag Harbor, who allegedly had a reading of 0.10 percent, was released without bail. Daniel C. Crisanti, 53, of Manhattan, had the same breath test result and the same lack of any prior record. He, too, was released without bail.
Finally, there was Jack Cronin, 27. A landscaper, he told the court he was born in Manhattan, but has spent almost his whole life in County Kerry, Ireland. He said he had just moved to Hampton Bays. His reported reading of .15, and his lack of ties to the area, led Justice Rana to set bail at $350, which was posted.