On Tuesday, Spota announced the indictment of murder suspect Brett Knight, 45, arrested for the September 24 murder in Setauket of equestrian Ross Reisner.
Knight, who was represented by Michael Brown, was arraigned on Wednesday in Suffolk County Criminal Court before Judge Richard Ambro and faces one count of murder in the second degree, a felony, one count of attempted murder in the second degree, a felony, one count of criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree, a felony, and three counts of aggravated harassment in the second degree, a misdemeanor.
Suffolk County Assistant District Attorney Rafael Pearl asked that the defendant be held without bail; the judge agreed, but said Brown could submit an application for bail again in the future.
If convicted, he faces 50 years to life in jail.
After the arraignment, Spota painted a picture of a defendant whose life unraveled after he was fired from his high-level position at American Express.
Knight, Spota said, was a longtime friend of both Reisner and his partner of 26 years, Kevin Murray, who was grazed on his forearm by a bullet during the shooting.
Murray and Reisner both tried to persuade Knight to drop his lawsuit against American Express, Spota said, leading Knight to embark on the plan for a "premeditated, cold-blooded murder" of both men. "If he had his way, there would have been two murders," Spota said.
Spota said despite some speculation, "This is not a case about a spurned lover, or a love triangle."
Instead, he said, the defendant was fired by American Express in 2010 and became "enraged" when Murray and Reisner suggested his subsequent lawsuit was "baseless" and encouraged him to drop the proceedings. When Murray wrote a letter to American Express, Spota said, Knight became "enraged," and unleashed his anger with a sword, destroying property at their home.
Reisner and Murray told Knight he had to leave the home, where he had been a tenant in the basement apartment; Knight was arrested for the incident and an order of protection was issued by the judge.
Knight, Spota said, "was infuriated and betrayed by Mr. Reisner and Mr. Murray. In his mind, they were directly responsible for everything that had gone wrong in his life," Spota said.
Next, Spota said, Knight began sending "threatening texts" with religious overtones, including one threat used in the movie 'Pulp Fiction' by Samuel L. Jackson's character before he shoots someone.
"Prepare yourself for a painful end," one text read.
He also sent a box with a dead pigeon to the two men, Spota said.
In September, an arrest warrant was issued for the aggravated harassment charges; Knight did not appear at the arraignment. Twenty days later, he "stalked" the Upper Sheep Pasture Road home of the two men, where he stood outside a kitchen window and fired 11 shots, Spota said.
Photos of the crime scene showed chairs in the kitchen which were destroyed by the bullets.
One shot hit Reisner in the back. "Mr. Murray called 911 as he tried in vain to save Mr. Reisner's life, which unfortunately, slipped away," Spota said.
Knight, who fled the scene on a motorcycle, was picked up by Suffolk County police homicide detectives, the U.S. Marshals and the Sevier County sheriff's office in Seymour, Tennessee and extradited on October 10, Spota said.
"He said he'd always wanted to see the Smoky Mountains," Spota said. "That was the last time he'll see the Smoky Mountains. We have a very strong case. From now on, he'll see nothing but bars."
District Attorney Spota said two 40 caliber Smith & Wesson handguns were recovered from the defendant’s bedroom at his rental in Tennessee.
After testing, one gun was determined to be the murder weapon, Spota said, who added that the DA's office had both a verbal and videotaped confession.
Reisner was a beloved member of Long Island's equestrian community who recently established Maple Lane Farm in Mattituck.
According to a statement from the Marshals, a nationwide manhunt launched after Reisner's shooting, targeting Knight.
An emotional Murray, his voice laced with tears, spoke briefly at the press conference, thanking Spota and detectives.
He asked everyone in attendance to pray for both of their mothers, "who will no doubt suffer the most." He also thanked the media for the kindness shown to him and his family in the press. "I lost my partner," he said. "We shared a beautiful life together."
Knight's attorney said his client will plead not guilty. "He had a longtime relationship with both fellows. There's no reason why he would do such an act. Mr. Knight is looking forward to defending himself."
Brown said he had yet to see any of the evidence or "proof" the DA said had been gathered against his client, who "has been charged with the most serious of crimes."
Knight's next court date is scheduled for Nov. 19.