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Arraignment delayed for most Uber drivers in East Hampton; attorney fears jail time

A group of Uber drivers, who have been

A group of Uber drivers, who have been charged with criminal misdemeanor offenses for violating local license ordinances during the Memorial Day weekend, meet with their attorney, Daniel G. Rodgers, center, on Monday, June 15, 2015. Credit: Gordon M. Grant

The attorney representing Uber drivers charged with violating East Hampton's taxi licensing laws said he expects the town will drive a hard bargain that includes jail time, but the town supervisor said the app-based service can operate if it chooses to work within the law.

Last week, East Hampton Town suspended the ride-booking service, which is based in Manhattan and began offering rides in East Hampton three years ago. In late May, East Hampton officials charged 23 Uber drivers with the licensing violation, a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.

"Uber has had over a year to work within the town's taxi law," Supervisor Larry Cantwell said Monday. "We did not bar them. They chose to withdraw their service."

The drivers were scheduled to be arraigned Monday in East Hampton Town Justice Court. But incomplete paperwork resulted in only six of them pleading not guilty to the charges. The others will enter their pleas on July 20. Two drivers were sick and did not attend the arraignment, and a driver who said he would be out of town in July had his case rescheduled to June 29.

Daniel G. Rodgers, a Southampton attorney representing the drivers, said after Monday's proceedings that he is trying to work out a deal that will avoid jail time for the drivers.

"They're going to be recommending jail," Rodgers said of the town's attorneys. "I was a little surprised. . . . We're still working on a disposition for all the drivers that are noncriminal in nature."

Assistant Town Attorney Michael Sendlenski said Monday that the town does not comment on pending litigation, but he disputed Rodgers' statement.

"That's not an accurate description of those negotiations," he said.

Josh Mohrer, general manager for Uber New York City, and the company's spokesmen have said the charges are in retaliation for a campaign urging Uber users to contact town officials about the service cancellation. Cantwell said Monday that his office has received 1,000 emails and phone calls supporting Uber.

Bravo television network's Andy Cohen tweeted that he needed Uber to be his "DD," or designated driver, when he's partying in the Hamptons.

Cantwell said Uber drivers could pool their resources and establish a business in East Hampton or form relationships with drivers already licensed in town.

But Uber's competitors said they plan to launch their own local app-based service, Gata Hub, next month, whether Uber returns to East Hampton or not.

"It'll give tourists an opportunity to choose a local company," said Mark Ripolone, a Montauk resident who owns Ditch Plains Taxi and attended Monday's arraignment.

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