The trial of Paul Calabro, a Mattituck man accused by his neighbor of trespassing on her Soundfront beach just west of the Mattituck Inlet, got underway in a Riverhead courtroom Wednesday afternoon.
Christine and Richard Rivera argue that Mr. Calabro trespassed on their land in September of 2008 and August of 2009 by cutting diagonally across their beach en route to the water.
Mr. Calabro says he never trespassed on their land.
The case brings into focus a legal argument over the long-accepted public right to walk shoreline areas, provided it’s seaward of the mean high water mark. The Riveras have long said that right does not apply to their land.
Mr. Calabro said the Riveras offered to settle the case, filed in December 2009, last year if he would pay $10,000 toward their legal costs and would sign a document stating that he would never turn left when he walks down the public access to the beach to the right of the Riveras’ house. He refused and requested the jury trial.
An entourage of environmental activists and Democratic party members from Southold accompanied Mr. Calabro to New York State Supreme Court in Riverhead, where the case was to be heard by Justice Joseph Pastoressa.
“Are you ready to occupy the courtroom?” asked Mr. Calabro of his supporters as the doors to the courtroom were opened. Mr. Calabro, who said earlier this week that he’s looking forward to the trial, seemed anxious to get the proceedings underway.
The crowd ended up waiting for an hour and a half while attorneys conferenced with the judge.
The Riveras’ attorney, Jared Behar of the firm Sinnreich, Kosakof and Messina, called two witnesses to the stand before the court adjourned for the day at 4:30 p.m. Joseph and Ellen Palazzo, neighbors of the Riveras from their other home in Rockville Center, claimed they saw Mr. Calabro trespass onto Ms. Rivera’s beach, though they both said they couldn’t remember the dates of the alleged trespass.
The trial is scheduled to continue tomorrow morning at 11 a.m.