07/15/13 1:11pm
07/15/2013 1:11 PM
BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Jasmine Parsons is led into Riverhead Town Justice Court for her arraignment in February.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Jasmine Parsons is led into Riverhead Town Justice Court for her arraignment in February.

A former Riverhead woman who was behind the wheel of a car allegedly used in a February drive-by shooting has pleaded guilty in Suffolk County criminal court, court records show.

Two of the other three people charged in the shooting pleaded guilty earlier this year.

The man accused of firing seven rounds into the occupied Third Street home still faces felony charges.

Jasmine Parsons, 20, now of Mastic, pleaded guilty to first-degree reckless endangerment, a class “D” felony, before Judge William Condon in a Riverside courtroom Friday, records show.

The felony carries a maximum sentence of seven years in state prison. Additional information about Ms. Parsons’ plea was not immediately available.

Eric Baldwin Jr. of Bellport and Jordan Harrell of Medford — who were both in the car when it was pulled over moments after the shooting — had already pleaded guilty to the same felony reckless endangerment charge Ms. Parsons was indicted on.

Mr. Baldwin also pleaded guilty to a fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon charge stemming from brass knuckles police found during his arrest.

Ms. Parsons, Mr. Baldwin, and Mr. Harrell were all charged because they acted “in concert” in the shooting, according to a grand jury indictment.

The man prosecutors say shot a Smith & Wesson semiautomatic handgun at the Third Street home, Jeffrey Despeines, 21, of Centereach, is still facing three felony charges in the incident.

Like the others, he pleaded not guilty at his initial arraignments.

Ms. Parsons, who was then 19 years old, was the driver of the Ford Taurus that police say left the scene of the shooting just before 9 p.m. on Feb. 13.

A nearby officer on patrol said he saw the car driving away from where he heard gun shots. The police officer then trailed the car before pulling it over, arresting the group on nearby Peconic Avenue.

Prosecutors said they found spent shell casings on the floor of the car. They were later matched to “at least” one bullet dug from the house, prosecutors said.

Mr. Despeines also had a spent magazine in his shirt pocket and was carrying a loaded Smith & Wesson .38-caliber semiautomatic handgun at the time of his arrest, prosecutors said. He is also accused of defacing the registration on the gun.

Though the bullets tore through the house siding and into the bedroom and living rooms of two families living in the home, none of the people inside at the time of the shooting were injured.

Ms. Parsons is scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 13, according to online records. She is being held in Suffolk County jail on $100,000 cash bail or $200,000 bond, and has an additional $5,000 bail set for a violation of probation, jail officials said.

Mr. Baldwin is expected to be sentenced on Aug. 15, while Mr. Harrell had a sentencing date scheduled for today, Monday, that was adjourned to a later date, according to the Suffolk County district attorney’s office.

Mr. Despeines is due in court on July 25.

psquire@timesreview.com

06/21/13 2:00pm
06/21/2013 2:00 PM
BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTOS | Eric Baldwin Jr (left) and Jordan Harrell are led to their arraignment in Riverhead Town Justice court in February. Both men have pleaded guilty to the charges against them.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTOS | Eric Baldwin Jr (left) and Jordan Harrell are led to their arraignment in Riverhead Town Justice court in February. Both men have pleaded guilty to the charges against them.

Two of the four people charged in a February drive-by shooting in Riverhead have pleaded guilty, according to Suffolk County court records.

Eric Baldwin Jr., 18, of Bellport and Jordan Harrell, 18, of Medford — who authorities say were not the driver or shooter in the incident — were in the car allegedly used in the drive-by when it was pulled over moments after the shooting. Both were charged with first-degree reckless endangerment for acting “in concert” to shoot up the house.

Mr. Baldwin was also charged with fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon after police found he was carrying brass knuckles.

He pleaded guilty to both the felony reckless endangerment and misdemeanor weapons possession charges against him before Judge William Condon in county criminal court Thursday, online records show. The top charge, first-degree reckless endangerment, is a class “D” felony that carries a maximum sentence of seven years in state prison.

Mr. Harrell had pleaded guilty in March to a reckless endangerment charge, court officials said.

Additional information about the two pleas was not immediately available.

The alleged driver in the shooting, former Riverhead resident Jasmine Parsons, 19, now of Mastic, still faces the first-degree reckless endangerment charge against her.

The man authorities say shot a Smith & Wesson .38-caliber semiautomatic handgun at the home on Third Street, Jeffrey Despeines, 21, of Centereach, also faces three felony charges in the incident.

Both Ms. Parsons and Mr. Despeines have pleaded not guilty.

Riverhead Town police responded to the house on Third Street just before 9 p.m. on Feb. 13 after hearing gunfire.

A nearby officer on patrol said he saw a Ford Taurus leaving the scene of the shooting and trailed the car before pulling it over, arresting the group on nearby Peconic Avenue, police said.

Authorities said they found spent shell casings on the floor of the car, which were later matched to “at least” one bullet dug from the house, prosecutors said. Police also discovered Mr. Despeines had a spent magazine in his shirt pocket at the time of his arrest and was carrying a loaded Smith & Wesson .38-caliber semiautomatic handgun, prosecutors said.

Authorities also accuse Mr. Despeines of defacing the registration on the gun.

Though seven bullets ripped through siding and into the living room and bedroom of two families living in the house, none of the people inside the house at the time of the shooting were injured.

Mr. Baldwin is scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 15, while Mr. Harrell has a sentencing date set for July 15, according to the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office.

Ms. Parsons is due in court next Wednesday, court records show. Mr. Despeines is due in court on July 12.

psquire@timesreview.com

02/15/13 2:14pm
02/15/2013 2:14 PM
Drive-by shooting suspects

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTOS | Eric Baldwin Jr., Jasmine Parsons and Jeffrey Despeine.

A mother sobbed in court as she watched her 21-year-old son, wearing a green jumpsuit with his hands cuffed in front of him, appear before a Riverhead judge Friday to answer to felony gun charges.

Her son, Jeffrey Despeines of Centereach, is one of four people accused of shooting up a Third Street house that was filled with adults and two small children Wednesday night.

A woman who identified herself as a close friend of another suspect, Jasmine Parsons, also sat in the audience.

“She’s a good person. She’s loving. She has a job,” the woman told a reporter. “She just got caught up in the wrong situation with the wrong people.”

Three of the four suspects, Mr. Despeines; Ms. Parsons, 19, of Mastic; and Eric Baldwin Jr., 18, of Bellport; appeared in Town Justice Court for continued arraignment proceedings Friday, a day after bail was initially set for them Thursday.

The fourth suspect, Jordan Harrell, 18, of Medford will be back in court Tuesday.

The three suspects were not required to enter a plea on their felony charges. A Suffolk County grand jury will be reviewing the case Tuesday, Feb. 19, prosecutors said.

Mr. Baldwin pleaded not guilty to fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon, a misdemeanor.

Prosecutors said Mr. Despeines was the shooter in the drive-by, allegedly firing seven rounds into the two-family house. He was charged with second- and third-degree criminal possession of a weapon and first-degree reckless endangerment, all felonies.

His bail, originally set at $250,000 cash or $750,000 bond on Thursday, was modified to $100,000 cash or $250,000 bond Friday after a lawyer argued on his behalf.

The court-appointed attorney, Carl Irace of East Hampton, said Mr. Despeines has no prior criminal record.

“He has a very concerned family, and a impeccable work record,” Mr. Irace told a reporter after court.

Mr. Baldwin was charged with first-degree reckless endangerment, a felony, for his alleged involvement in the shooting, along with the misdemeanor fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon charge because police say they found brass knuckles on him.

His lawyer told the judge Mr. Baldwin has “strong ties to the community” and works full-time at a thrift store

Mr. Baldwin was held on $100,000 cash bail or $500,000 bond. Justice Smith modified his bond to $200,000, leaving cash bail set at $100,000.

Assistant district attorney William Nash had argued the bail amounts set Thursday should stay in place, due to the charges’ “serious nature,” adding also that some of the suspects are believed to have gang affiliations.

Ms. Parsons’ waived her right to appear in court Friday, said her attorney, Daniel Barker of Riverhead, saying he wanted the opportunity to speak with Ms. Parsons in private first.

He did not ask for a bail modification.

Although all four suspects appeared in court Thursday, authorities had not yet found lawyers to represent all of them during the initial proceedings.

cmiller@timesreview.com

02/15/13 8:00am
PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Officer Dennis Cavanagh tracked down and made the initial arrests of the four suspects police said shot at a Third Street home Wednesday night.

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Officer Dennis Cavanagh tracked down and made the initial arrests of the four suspects police said shot at a Third Street home Wednesday night.

Police officer Dennis Cavanagh was standing near the Riverhead firehouse on Roanoke Avenue just before 9 p.m. Wednesday.

There had been a report of a woman with chest pains and Mr. Cavanagh, the highway patrolman on duty and a CPR instructor, had arrived on the scene to see if the EMTs needed any help.

The ambulance had already pulled away when Mr. Cavanagh, a 27-year-veteran of the force, and fellow officer Mike Lombardo heard the loud bangs echo in the night.

“Just before we get in the car I hear ‘pop pop pop pop pop pop’ coming from the third street area south of us,” Mr. Cavanagh said in an interview Thursday.

There was no question in his mind what the noises were: gunshots.

“I counted ‘em, seven rounds. I knew it,” he said. “It’s distinctive. You can tell what’s gunfire and what’s fireworks.”

Four people — later identified by authorities as Jasmine Parsons, 19, of Mastic; Jordan Harrell, 18, of Medford; Eric Baldwin Jr., 18, of Bellport; and Jeffrey Despeines, 21, of Centereach— had fired .38-caliber rounds into a Third Street home in a drive-by shooting, cops later said.

The bullets struck the house’s siding and front door, and pierced windows; no one was hurt.

But at the time, the two officers didn’t know what had happened. Mr. Cavanagh said he looked south past the trees and the railroad tracks in the direction of the gunfire.

There, for a split second between the houses, he saw a small tan vehicle turning south onto Roanoke Avenue, driving away from the gunfire.

Mr. Cavanagh and Mr. Lombardo both jumped into their patrol cars, with Mr. Cavanagh leading the way. But when he turned onto Roanoke Avenue to follow the car, the vehicle was gone, either south toward Main Street or west on Second Street.

“I’m thinking to myself if he goes down Second Street I might lose him,” Mr. Cavanagh said. “Or did he go [south] with traffic?”

Mr. Cavanagh said he guessed.

“It was a shot in the dark,” he said. “Sometimes it works, sometimes it don’t, but for some reason I said ‘he went with traffic.’ ” Mr. Cavanagh drove down Roanoke to the traffic light on Main Street and as he turned near Peconic Avenue, his guess was proven right.

“I saw a little glimpse of a car go by,” he said. The same tan car he saw fleeing the scene.

He followed the car south on Peconic Avenue and pulled the driver over near the Valero Gas Station in Riverside. The tan car didn’t try to flee, he said.

“I was surprised they didn’t try to go,” Mr. Cavanagh said. “They usually try to go.”

A traffic stop is among the most dangerous actions an officer can take on the job, resulting in many injuries and deaths each year, according to government statistics.

Now, with his backup still on the road behind him, Mr. Cavanagh had to get the suspected shooters — who were likely armed — out of the car.

“It definitely heightens it. … you get a little tense,” he said. “You do start thinking about, what if? ”

Mr. Cavanagh started a “felony stop,” a special kind of traffic stop reserved for situations when the officer believes a person in the car committed a serious crime. He stood by his vehicle about 20 feet back and one by one, ordered the people in the car to step out of the vehicle with their hands showing.

As Mr. Cavanagh was conducting the stop, Mr. Lombardo arrived on the scene to assist. Eventually, all four people in the car were out of the vehicle and searched by police.

Mr. Cavanagh was sure police had caught the shooters.

“I look in the vehicle and said, ‘This is definitely the vehicle, we got it,’ because there were shell casings in it from expended rounds,” he said.

Officers from Riverhead and the Suffolk County Sheriff soon recovered the gun, fully loaded, that was allegedly used in the shooting from Mr. Despeines. Police also found Mr. Despeines had an empty magazine in his front right shirt pocket, Mr. Cavanagh said, adding that he suspects Mr. Despeines reloaded the weapon in the passenger seat after the shooting.

The suspects were all arrested and processed at Riverhead police headquarters that night. They were arraigned in Town Justice Court Thursday morning and held in lieu of bail at the Suffolk County jail, court officials said.

Mr. Cavanagh said he doesn’t understand why people would shoot up a residential home.

“People like that, man, they just don’t care,” he said. “It’s sad. Who would do that? Dump seven rounds into a home.”

He said he was glad the arrest was made so smoothly, crediting the hours of training the Riverhead Police Department emphasizes. In many other departments, officers will learn how to conduct a felony traffic stop during Academy but not have it drilled later in their careers.

Not so in Riverhead, he said.

“We’re fortunate to go back to those basic moves and do them with the [other officers],” Mr. Cavanagh said. “Try to reemphasize the beauty of it.”

Mr. Cavanagh had been in the area in the first place because of the increase in downtown patrols implemented late last year.

“It doesn’t hurt to have them down there, thats for sure, and it certainly paid off for me last night,” he said.

Wednesday night’s arrests were the latest in a long career in Riverhead for Mr. Cavanagh. Since he was 18 years old, he’s served others. A descendant from a long line of firefighters, he served with the U.S. Marines in the late 1970s, when he got “a good taste of the world,” he said.

After leaving the service in 1982, Mr. Cavanagh was hired by the town and has been patrolling the streets ever since.

“I guess I always had it in me to be a cop,” he said. “I never regret working here. I always loved this job.”

“I was fortunate to get hired here,” he added. “This town’s been good to me.”

Mr. Cavanagh can now add another four arrests to the over nearly three decades of repaying the favor.

psquire@timesreview.com