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Charges to be dismissed in Dellaquila Beauty case

Charges will be dismissed against the only Riverhead Town business owner arrested for operating during the COVID-19 economic shutdown following a plea agreement reached with the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office.

Denise Dellaquila, owner of Dellaquila Beauty on Main Road in Jamesport, agreed to an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal before Judge Lori Hulse in Riverhead Town Justice Court Wednesday. That means that if she avoids legal troubles over the next six months, the charges will be dismissed and she avoids fines.

The disposition came at the recommendation of prosecutors following their investigation into her arrest.

“I met with all the officers on scene and one of the supervising officers,” said Assistant District Attorney Ryan Krumholz. “This [disposition is also] based on a substantial conference with my direct supervisor. This is what we felt the appropriate disposition was.”

Ms. Dellaquila of Mattituck, who appeared before the judge in person Wednesday with her attorney Daniel Rodgers of Southampton on video conference, 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.

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 appearance ticket was issued and are now back operating as an essential business. At the time, the Dellaquilas said they did not believe Gov. Cuomo’s executive order was an enforceable law.