Anthony Oddone released on $500,000 bail
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A former Farmingville man whose conviction was overturned earlier this month in the 2008 choking death of a Southampton bar bouncer, left custody and a Riverhead courtroom Monday after supporters posted his $500,000 bail.
Anthony Oddone, 31, walked out of court and was met by about a dozen relatives and friends. His mother ran to him and hung from his neck as she hugged him. Both had tears in their eyes.
"I'm just very grateful to be with my friends and family and loved ones that supported me through this whole thing," said Oddone, adding that he had no immediate plans.
The state's highest court earlier this month overturned the 2010 conviction and ordered a new trial for Oddone, who had been found guilty of first-degree manslaughter in the death of off-duty Suffolk correction Officer Andrew Reister, 40, of Hampton Bays.
Reister was moonlighting as a bouncer at the Publick House in Southampton in August 2008 when he told Oddone to stop dancing on a table. The two got into a fight, and Oddone put Reister in a headlock and held him until he was unconscious. Reister died of cardiac arrest two days later.
In a unanimous ruling Dec. 12, the seven judges on the New York State Court of Appeals threw out Oddone's conviction, ruling that he did not get a fair trial.
Despite the high court ruling, "there is still a very strong case," and prosecutors intend to retry Oddone on the first-degree manslaughter charge, Assistant District Attorney Denise Merrifield said Monday.
Defense attorney Sarita Kedia said Oddone's legal team will assist him against any further prosecution. He has served nearly 51/2 years of his manslaughter sentence, which was reduced from 22 years to 17 years in the appeals process.
Merrifield had asked for $5 million cash or $15 million bond before State Supreme Court Justice C. Randall Hinrichs set bail at $500,000 cash or $1 million bond. The bail was posted by unidentified supporters.
Hinrichs ordered Oddone released into the custody of his mother, who lives in upstate Orange County. After the hearing, Merrifield repeated claims that Oddone was "a substantial flight risk" because of his history of warrants issued over alleged parole violations and his actions on the day of the altercation.
"On the night of this particular incident, the defendant fled, got in a taxi and ran away, took off," Merrifield said. "And when he was stopped by the police, he tried to deny any involvement in this whatsoever, tried to act like this was a typical night for him at the Publick House."
Kedia said Oddone was attending school, working and had tried to notify his parole officer of his whereabouts. He is seen by his family and friends as "an extraordinarily productive, generous and responsible" person, Kedia said during the hearing.
At Oddone's 2010 trial, Kedia tried to jog Megan Flynn's memory, a waitress at the bar who saw part of the struggle, by giving her the statement she made to insurance company investigators, which differed from her statement at the trial. But Hinrichs barred the defense from challenging the length of the chokehold.
That, the judges ruled, was a mistake.
Hinrichs, now a State Supreme Court justice and district administrative judge for Suffolk County, has declined to comment.
Clarification: An earlier version of this story failed to fully identify Megan Flynn, a Southampton waitress who witnessed part of a struggle between Oddone and Reister.