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Nov 7, 2013 2:22 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Springs Man Accused Of Burglaries Could Face Life Behind Bars

Nov 12, 2013 12:41 PM

The Springs man charged with committing a string of burglaries in East Hampton and Southampton towns could, in theory, spend the rest of his life in prison, according to the Suffolk County district attorney’s office.

On Thursday morning, Justin T. Bennett, 35, was arraigned before Judge Richard Ambro in Suffolk County Criminal Court, where he pleaded not guilty. If convicted, he faces up to 15 years for each of 25 second-degree burglary charges from a 27-count indictment issued on November 1—a total of 375 years if served consecutively, according to Bob Clifford, a spokesman for the district attorney’s office.

Mr. Bennett was arrested on Thursday, October 24, while driving on Route 114, according to East Hampton Town Police. Based on witness descriptions, the car he was driving, a 2003 black Toyota sedan that belongs to his girlfriend, and information provided by detectives about a “significant amount” of jewelry recovered in New York City, where Mr. Bennett was allegedly planning to sell it, he became a suspect in the burglaries.

East Hampton Town Police and the district attorney’s office said Mr. Bennett burglarized homes in Sag Harbor Village as well as in East Hampton and Southampton towns, stealing more than $126,000 worth of jewelry, cash and prescription medications over several months this year. Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota has called Mr. Bennett a “prolific burglar.”

In a statement to East Hampton Town Police, included with documents filed with the courts as part of his arrest, he confessed to feeding his heroin addiction with money he secured by burglarizing houses.

Additionally, he was taken by East Hampton Town Police detectives to each burglarized home, where he pointed out how he entered and recalled what he stole, according to Mr. Clifford.

The indictment states that Mr. Bennett hit homes mostly on Springs roads: Montauk Boulevard, Sycamore Drive, Flaggy Hole Road, Lincoln Street, Bon Pinck Way, Gardiner Avenue, Middle Highway, Highwood and Fort Pond Boulevard. He also hit a home on Ancient Highway off Route 114, according to the indictment.

In Southampton, he burglarized homes on Glenview Drive, Toppings Path, Chestnut Street, Noyac Road, Widow Gavits Road, Carol Street, Sunset Beach Road, Pineneck Avenue, Noyac Path, Horton Terrace Road, and Lighthouse Lane, the indictment charged.

According to Mr. Clifford, in the attempted burglary of a house on Flaggy Hole Road in East Hampton, Mr. Bennett was confronted by a resident of the home who was able to later identify him.

Mr. Bennett is being held at the Suffolk County jail in Northampton in lieu of $200,000 cash bail or a $400,000 bond. Mr. Spota said the county asked for substantial bail “because of the number of crimes he is alleged to have committed, and his severe heroin addiction, he is a serious flight risk.”

Although he does not have any prior criminal convictions in the state of New York, he does have a pending misdemeanor charge of possession of a controlled substance, according to Mr. Clifford.

Mr. Bennett is due back in court on December 6.

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Seriously? Life behind bars for burglary?? I don't even know this guy..I am just saying.

How does one get 21 years for manslaughter and then appealed to 17 years. And then another get life behind bars for burglary? Something wrong with this picture. Of course, I don't condone burglary either..but I do think manslaughter is a bit more serious.

I realize he will have to be convicted, a trial..and on and on it will go... I am just saying how out of proportion it sounds! ...more
By AnonymousSgh (183), Sag Harbor on Nov 7, 13 3:47 PM
2 members liked this comment
Just some grandstanding and sensationalism - he will probably be sentenced to 10-15 for each charge but will serve them concurrently, so it's only 10-15 total.
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Nov 7, 13 3:57 PM
1 member liked this comment
Still....sounds totally out of proportion to a manslaughter sentence...and its a lot of tax payers money. I can understand some jail time...and A LOT of community service and probation...but certainly not paying to keep him in jail for life.
By AnonymousSgh (183), Sag Harbor on Nov 7, 13 5:19 PM
1 member liked this comment
It's called "over-charging," and is intended to [A] grab some headlines for a hack DA, and [B] encourage a plea to a lesser set of charges for the commendable endeavor of saving taxpayers the cost of a trial.

And the "community service" thing? How much useful "community service" do you think can be extracted from someone with a substance problem?
By Frank Wheeler (1826), Northampton on Nov 8, 13 10:26 AM
It's based on his prior record. He either has at least two prior violent felony convictions and this would be his third (a home burglary is classified as "violent") or he has been to prison at least two times before this. It's pat of the "three strikes" law.
By HB90 (164), southampton on Nov 18, 13 1:44 AM
15 years for each count of 25 burgs....you do the math... : )

By 1640sWhaler (74), Sag Harbor/Easthampton on Nov 7, 13 4:58 PM
overkill big time, he needs help and 1 year Max period, with 5 years probation
By blackduck1 (20), southampton on Nov 7, 13 9:54 PM
Where I was born, you would lose a finger for the each offense . If you committed more than 4 you would start losing hands, then arms and maybe legs.
By Summer Resident (251), Southampton N.Y. on Nov 7, 13 11:21 PM
Really, please tell us where you were born.
By But I'm a blank! (1283), Hampton Bays on Nov 8, 13 12:40 PM
1 member liked this comment
This guy lives 10 minutes drive from some of the wealthiest homes in the U.S.--and where does he hit---Springs & Noyac
By aging hipster (201), Southampton on Nov 8, 13 7:42 AM
Exactly, where the alarms and house sitters aren't…. :-/
By ICE (1214), Southampton on Nov 9, 13 3:10 AM
Seems the guy chose the path of least resistance.He hit a lot of seasonal homes that probably lacked alarms hence the reason he stayed away from the upscale areas. Drug addicts are not usually the sophisticated cat burglar type.
My guess is that he will probably end up with 5-10 years. He has some pretty serious offenses. Time will tell.
By Tuckahoe Ted (53), southampton on Nov 8, 13 8:37 AM
1 member liked this comment
I know two folks that were robbed. They are hard working locals, desperately trying to make ends meet. For some piece of scum to break into someone's home and take what they worked so hard for is appalling. What would have happened if an elderly person or child was home? Get off your butt, seek help & get a job. Being robbed is devastating. You never feel secure again & live in fear every time you hear a noise in the middle of the night.
By Ms. Jane Q. Public (147), Southampton on Nov 8, 13 8:37 AM
2 members liked this comment
Where you robbed? Did he take all your jewlery your children got from their grandparents?
What about the lady that was raising money for cancer and he robbed that money?
Once or even 5 homes ok, this clown did almost 30 robberys? Addiction is a bitch. Not life but he should do at least 10 yrs.
By domb (2), Southampton on Nov 8, 13 12:58 PM
Pretty clear memory of what he did when robbing the houses, especially for a heroin addict. I doubt he will be in jail the rest of his life for these crimes. Hopefully he gets help for his addiction and lives a better life though. He does deserve at least 10 to 15 years in prison for what he's been doing.
By suzer67 (51), nanuet on Nov 9, 13 9:03 PM
By CaptainSig (716), Dutch Harbor on Nov 11, 13 6:44 AM