The owner of Dellaquila Beauty in Jamesport was extended an offer to negotiate a plea deal at an emotional arraignment Monday in Riverhead Town Justice Court for violating the state’s mandated shutdown in May.
Denise Dellaquila was the first person charged in Riverhead Town — and possibly all of Suffolk County — with violating the public health law following Governor’s Andrew Cuomo’s executive order restricting non-essential businesses from operating during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I just want this to be over the quickest way possible,” Ms. Dellaquila told Town Justice Lori Hulse. “I can’t emotionally deal with this. I’m sorry.”
Ms. Dellaquila, who showed up in court without an attorney, said she had no intent to hire counsel to represent her.
“I’m not gonna get an attorney,” she said. “This can’t continue.”
Since she showed up without an attorney Monday and was not prepared to negotiate a plea agreement with the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office, Judge Hulse entered a not guilty plea on her behalf Monday.
Judge Hulse advised Ms. Dellaquila it’s in her best interest to hire an attorney and to conference with prosecutors between now and her next court appearance Wednesday, should she choose to continue on without representation.
“I just want this over because I’m very upset with this,” a sobbing Ms. Dellaquila told the judge.
Judge Hulse told her she’ll “get through this,” the process just needs to play out appropriately.
Violating the public health law is a misdemeanor with a maximum fine of $2,000 for a first violation and $5,000 for second violation, Riverhead Police Chief David Hegermiller said shortly after Ms. Dellaquila was charged.
Dellaquila Beauty reopened for the first time in nearly two months Friday, May 15, the same day other parts of the state were set to reopen for Phase 1 of the governor’s plan to end the shutdown. That phase was limited to certain upstate counties at the time and included construction, manufacturing and some retail uses. They were fined when they continued to operate for several days despite warnings to close from police. At the time, the county was still experiencing more than 100 new cases each day and 18 people died in Suffolk on the day Ms. Dellaquila was given an appearance ticket. There was also a large public outcry for businesses to reopen at the time.
Suffolk County reached Phase 1 a week later, but salons were not permitted to reopen for another 40 days after Dellaquila first returned. They decided to close again after the ticket was issued and are now back operating. At the time, the Dellaquilas said they did not believe Gov. Cuomo’s executive order was an enforceable law.
Judge Hulse told Ms. Dellaquila that she has the right to go to trial should she choose to do so.