Suffolk County Legis.-elect Catherine Stark pleaded not guilty to charges of driving under the influence of drugs at her arraignment in Riverhead on Monday and was released without bail.
Stark, 60, who had spent the night at Riverhead Town police headquarters, pleaded not guilty before Judge Lori Hulse in Riverhead Town Justice Court on Monday morning after police accused Stark of displaying signs of “drunk-like behavior [and] slurred speech" following a traffic stop Sunday. She is charged with driving while ability impaired by drugs, a misdemeanor.
Stark told police she took “one to two oxycodones," according to the Riverhead police officer who made the arrest.
Stark’s attorney, Steven Losquadro of Rocky Point, reiterated Monday morning that she was under the influence of medication prescribed to treat previously undisclosed cancer, not illegal drugs, and that she would be vindicated in court.
“She requests privacy, of course, at this time to deal with her continuing medical condition and the fight that she's engaged in,” Losquadro, who also represents the Suffolk Republican Committee, said outside the courthouse on Monday. “But she does look forward to bringing forth all of those facts and circumstances at an appropriate time and making the court aware of what has truly transpired."
Sunday's arrest came about 2:30 p.m. when police received a 911 call regarding an impaired driver operating a vehicle, police said. A patrol officer located the vehicle and, following an investigation, Stark, 60, of Riverhead was identified as the driver.
She was driving a 2014 Ford Escape and making a right turn into her driveway when she was pulled over, according to court documents.
The officer reported that Stark showed signs of "being disoriented, droopy eyelids, drowsiness, drunk-like behavior, slurred speech, extreme dry mouth, slow internal clock and had constricted pupil size which are all indicators of Narcotic Analgesics," according to the criminal complaint.
"I took one to two oxycodones,” Stark allegedly told the officer. “I have back pain."
A blood test is pending and Stark is due back in court on Jan. 24.
Losquadro, in a statement Sunday, said the arrest occurred hours after Stark took medication prescribed by an oncologist related to cancer treatment, which he said will be proved by a pending blood test. He noted that Stark had previously kept her diagnosis private and he declined to offer further details on her health.
Stark was charged under Section 1192, Subsection 4, of the New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law, entitled driving while ability impaired by drugs. The charge is a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of between $500 and $1,000, up to one year in jail or both, plus a license suspension.
Stark, a Republican who served as a legislative aide for nearly two decades, defeated Democrat Catherine Kent, a former Riverhead Town councilwoman, in the November election. She is expected to be sworn in early January.
With Darwin Yanes