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ALBANY – The state’s highest court ordered a new trial Thursday for a Farmingville man previously convicted of killing a Southampton bar bouncer by holding him in a headlock.
The state Court of Appeals, in a 7-0 ruling, said that a crucial judicial error poisoned the trial of Anthony Oddone, 30, who was convicted in 2010 of first-degree manslaughter in the death of Andrew Reister, 40, of Hampton Bays.
Writing for the court, Judge Robert Smith said then-Suffolk County Court Justice C. Randall Hinrichs improperly prevented Oddone’s defense attorney from challenging how long the headlock lasted.
During the trial - which occurred more than a year after the incident - a waitress testified that the headlock lasted “a minute or so.” Oddone’s lawyer tried to introduce a statement the waitress gave immediately after the incident in which she said the hold lasted “maybe 6 to 10 seconds.” But Hinrichs wouldn’t allow it.
That decision irreparably damaged Oddone’s right to a fair trail, Smith wrote.
“In this, the trial court erred,” Smith said. “More fundamentally, it was simply unfair to let the jury hear the ‘minute or so’ testimony – testimony damaging to the defense – while allowing the defense to make no use at all of an earlier, much more favorable, answer to the same question.”
Smith concluded: “Though (the waitress) was certainly not the central witness in the case, we conclude that the error in limiting (Oddone’s) counsel’s examination of her was important enough to justify reversal.”
The court threw out the conviction and ordered a new trial in Suffolk County.
The tragic incident occurred at the Publick House in Southampton in August 2008. Reister, an off-duty corrections officer working as a bouncer, pulled Oddone off a table where he’d been dancing. The two men scuffled; Oddone placed Reister in a headlock or chokehold until Reister collapsed. Reister died two days later, according to court documents.
Oddone, who argued self defense, had been given a 17-year sentence.
Hinrichs is now a state Supreme Court justice.