The Bay Shore man charged with impersonating a police officer to kidnap two teenage girls in Lindenhurst Wednesday was ordered held on $500,000 cash bail, $1 million bond or $5 million partially secured bond after a contentious arraignment Friday in which he was warned by the judge.
Judge James Saladino, presiding over the virtual arraignment in First District Court in Central Islip, told defendant Donald Cristiano Jr., 46, "It is in your best interests to remain silent," after Cristiano, defiantly shaking his head as the prosecutor detailed what he had allegedly done, shouted and cursed that he didn't do it.
Cristiano's attorney, John Powers of West Islip, pleaded with his client to let him do the talking.
Cristiano is charged with two counts of second-degree kidnapping, two counts of endangering the welfare of a child, one count of first-degree criminal impersonation, and one count of luring a child. He was held overnight at the Suffolk County Police First Precinct in West Babylon following his arrest Thursday,
Police said Cristiano, driving a white Nissan Xterra SUV, spotted the girls, ages 14 and 16, about 3:35 p.m. Wednesday on Herbert Avenue as they walked to the nearby Lindenhurst Memorial Library.
Cristiano allegedly identified himself to the teens as a police officer, telling them he was "investigating gang activity" in the area and that they weren't safe.
Law enforcement officials said he then "coerced" the teens into his SUV and drove to the library, where he put the older girl out of the vehicle before driving the younger girl to nearby Fireman's Memorial Field, where he touched her inappropriately. The girl was able to flee and run to a house for help.
In a revelation Friday, Assistant Suffolk County District Attorney MacDonald Drane said Cristiano "took down the names and addresses" of both victims before he touched the 14-year-old and "attempted to put his hands down her pants."
That prompted the outburst by Cristiano.
Drane had previously asked for a "stay away order of protection" for the two minors against Cristiano, a request granted by Saladino. Drane told the court Cristiano not only had admitted to police his ties to the SUV used in the kidnapping but also said that on Friday, before the arraignment, Cristiano told police "he was sorry" for his role as the allegations against him were detailed.
That account drew an adamant response from Powers, who told the court he'd notified police of his representation of Cristiano on Thursday and that any alleged statements by his client therefore were inadmissible.
Saladino praised what he called the "eloquent" argument made by Powers, noting his objection "preserved the issues" for a later date.
In objecting to the high bail request, Powers described Cristiano as a U.S. Army veteran who had been honorably discharged, and said his client suffered from PTSD from being at the World Trade Center on 9/11. He also said Cristiano had a bipolar disorder.
But Saladino said the seriousness of the charge was "an enticement" for Cristiano "to flee the jurisdiction" — which was why he was granting the higher bail request made by Drane. The only charge more serious than kidnapping under penal law is murder, Saladino said.
On Thursday, Suffolk Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart, speaking at a news conference, described the case as "disturbing and frightening," and County Executive Steve Bellone, himself the father of a boy and two girls, one 13, called the allegations against Cristiano "sickening."
"It is beyond disturbing … this is every parent's nightmare," Bellone said.
On Friday, Suffolk First Squad detectives also put out a statement asking anyone who had contact with Cristiano on Wednesday call them at 631-854-8152.
Cristiano is next scheduled to appear in court Tuesday.
With Rachelle Blidner, Matthew Chayes and Joan Gralla