12/09/11 6:12pm
12/09/2011 6:12 PM

BETH YOUNG PHOTO | Attorney David Raimondo and his client, Paul Calabro, leave the Riverhead courtroom Friday afternoon. A jury found Mr. Calabro did not trespass on Christine and Richard Rivera's beach.

Paul Calabro did not trespass on Christine and Richard Rivera’s beach on two occasions in August of 2008 and 2009, says the civil jury charged with deciding Ms. Rivera’s lawsuit against her 78-year-old neighbor.

The six-member jury reached its unanimous verdict in less than 10 minutes, after nearly three days of testimony in the trial, which was heard before Justice Joseph Pastoressa in New York State Supreme Court in Riverhead.

As he left the courtroom, Mr. Calabro said he hasn’t slept in three days, after hearing three days of what he said were lies that disparaged his character.

Mr. Rivera testify that Mr. Calabro shook his fist in his face on one occasion and grabbed his crotch and said “take a picture of this” when Mr. Rivera tried to take a picture of Mr. Calabro on the beach in front of his house.

Mr. Calabro maintained throughout the trial that he was below the mean high water mark and was seaward of the Riveras property on the dates they allege the incidents took place.

He said he was “not really surprised” that the jury made its decision so quickly.

“I don’t think they wanted to come back Monday,” he said. “I had a feeling they’d decide in my favor. I don’t think the jury would buy everything they [the Riveras] said. It was easy to know they were lying.”

In the end, the case did come down to the Riveras’ word and the word of two of their friends, who said they witnessed Mr.Calabro on the beach, against Mr. Calabro’s word that he was not on the Riveras’ property. Neither side presented physical evidence of where Mr. Calabro was on the dates in question. The trespasses were alleged to have occurred on Aug. 30 2008 and Aug. 23, 2009.

Ms. Rivera said as she left the courtroom that she and her husband are disappointed in the result of the case, but “that still doesn’t change the fact that if someone trespasses on our property we will respond accordingly.”

Mr. Calabro’s attorney, David Raimondo, said he often sees juries return verdicts this quickly “when the evidence is so overwhelming.”

“The Riveras could not convey exactly what property they owned and their recollection of the trespass was completely faulty,” he said.

“This verdict by the people sends a message that the public has a right to walk the shores of Long Island, as is their right to do so, as long as they’re not on private property,” he added. “The fishermen of Long Island and the residents of Long Island have obtained a victory today. Enjoy the beaches.”

[email protected]

12/09/11 10:09am

FILE PHOTO | A photo of the fence during a storm. This fence, which stretches into the water near Breakwater Beach at Mattituck Inlet, has been a thorn in some neighbors sides for years, but the owner of the property says she's within her rights.

The civil trial of a Mattituck man accused of walking on his neighbor’s beach entered its third day in a Riverhead courtroom Friday morning.

Ms. Rivera was on the stand all day Thursday, describing her  understanding of her property’s boundaries and what took place on the dates in question. No criminal charges have been filed against Mr. Calabro.

Seventy-eight-year-old Paul Calabro is is accused of cutting across Christine and Richard Rivera’s Soundfront property on one occasion in 2008 and again in 2009. The Riveras petitioned the State Supreme Court to compel Mr. Calabro to stipulate in writing that he will no longer cross the beach in front of their home. They’re also seeking to recoup their legal costs.

During Thursday’s testimony, Ms. Rivera described her understanding of a judgement she and 18 other property owners in the neighborhood received in 2007 which she said “means we are the owners of any accreted beach, now and forever. If it erodes, we loose beach.”

During cross-examination, Mr. Calabro’s attorney, David Raimondo, repeatedly attempted to ask Ms. Rivera whether she or the homeowners of the West Mattituck Beach Association, of which she is a former president, paid a firm to lobby then-attorney general Andrew Cuomo during the 2007 case. The beachfront homeowners won that case by default when the state did not mount a defense.

Ms. Rivera’s attorney, Jared Behar of Central Islip, objected to most of Mr. Raimondo’s questions about the lobbying, which were then withdrawn. Ms. Rivera said during direct questioning that, since around 2007, Mr. Calabro has repeatedly set up his beach chairs and umbrella in front of her property and left them there all day while he swam and boated in the water in front of her house.

Prior to that time, she said, he always used the public beach to the east of her house.

“He says ‘you don’t own the beach,'” she said.

Mr. Raimondo asked Ms. Rivera how many times she had called the police when people walked on the beach in front of her house.

She said she didn’t know, but when pressed responded “yes” when he asked if she had called the police “less than 50 times.”

Mr. Raimondo asked Ms. Rivera a number of questions about the location of the mean high water mark on her property. By law, people are allowed to walk seaward of the mean high water mark.

She said Trustee Jim King placed a PVC pipe in the sand in front of her house to delineate the mean high water mark, but she could not recall the date. Mr. Raimondo said that took place on Nov. 19, 2010, more than a year after the most recent trespass allegation was brought against Mr. Calabro.

The Riveras’ surveyor was expected to take the stand when the trial resumes Friday at 10 a.m.