Cyril’s Trial Ends With Guilty Verdict on 45 Charges

The group that owns the land Cyril's Fish House sits on is reportedly planning to start demolition on a roadside bar and several other structures in the next couple of days. Carissa Katz

A jury in East Hampton Town Justice Court on Friday found the corporation run by Cyril Fitzsimons, the namesake for Cyril’s Fish House, guilty of 45 misdemeanors related to the illegal expansion of the popular roadside Napeague bar and restaurant.

Each charge is punishable by a fine of up to $1,000.

The charges, which were brought in March of 2014 by the town’s code enforcement bureau, involved the brick patio, roadside bar, and front awning, as well as several other structures on the property. Before the four-day trial began Tuesday, the town’s attorney’s office agreed to a stipulation with the owners of the land itself, Michael Dioguardi, Debra Laikind Dioguardi, and Robert Dioguardi, co-defendants with Mr. Fitzsimons, in which they agreed to dismantle the violating structures. According to the town’s lead attorney, Michael Sendlenski, the ownership group will start demolition within the next couple of days.
The Dioguardis could have been sentenced by Justice Steven Tekulsky, who presided over the trial, to up to six months each in jail if they had been convicted. Mr. Fitzsimons was not facing jail time, since it was a corporate entity of his that was being charged.

“There is going to be an appeal,” said John T. Powers Jr., Mr. Fitzsimons’s attorney. He said that Mr. Fitzsimons was offered a deal before the trial similar to the one brokered by Christopher Kelley, the legal representative for the landowners. That deal included payment of a $60,000 fine, as well as an agreement to adjourn the case against the Dioguardis, contemplating dismissal after six months.

Mr. Powers said the stipulation offered was “unconscionable.” As an example, he cited one clause in the proposed stipulation under which Clan-Fitz would be fined $100 per person for every person over a total of 150 people, the establishment’s legal occupancy, at any time. In addition, he said, the corporation would be fined $100 each time an individual was found outside of a new, 900-square-foot outdoor serving area. He gave as an example, a patron arriving by car, getting out of a vehicle holding a bottle of water. Under the stipulation, he said, that bottle of water could be classified as a beverage, incurring a $100 fine.

The stipulations “together with the 45 convictions by the jurors, validated the town’s commitment to enforcing our public safety and zoning laws. We are serious about code enforcement,” East Hampton Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell said after the trial.

Mr. Fitzsimons, as member of a corporation Clan-Fitz, which was founded in 1990, cannot be sentenced to jail as a result of the criminal convictions, but he could be in jeopardy of losing his liquor license, according to William Crowley, director of public and legislative affairs for the New York State Liquor Authority. Mr. Crowley said last month that even one misdemeanor conviction of operating without a certificate of occupancy could trigger a reconsideration of the temporary license issued to Clan-Fitz earlier this year. Clan-Fitz was found guilty of 12 counts of lacking an appropriate occupance certificate, covering 12 structures on the property.

The authority permanently revoked the establishment’s license in 2014, but that action is on appeal and has been stayed.

A key moment during the jurors’ deliberations came when they received a read-back of testimony from Scott Rodriguez, the code enforcement officer who visited the site on March 17, 2014, and upon whose observations most of the charges were based. “The attorney for the defense had said there was no hard file,” the jury’s forewoman said. However, when the testimony was read back, it was revealed that Mr. Rodriguez had compared the computer printout from the Building Department to what was in the file itself.

The jury, which included three women and three men, found Clan-Fitz not guilty of two charges, those of failing to get approval from the town’s architectural review board before putting up two stockade fences on the half-acre property.
Mr. Powers had tried to argue during his final summation that the records of the town are murky and can easily be lost in a bureaucracy. It was an argument that the jurors bought, but only to an extent. “Our main issue was accuracy,” said Mary-Anne Mango. The jurors were open to the argument that something could have fallen through the cracks. “But, 47 times?” she asked.

Joseph Prokop, special counsel to the town who has been handling the case for the past four years, was clearly happy as he left the courthouse, but would not comment on the record.