After three days of testimony and evidence, a six-person jury found that Paul Calabro of Mattituck did not trespass on his neighbors' beachfront property.
Christine and Paul Rivera had charged that Calabro - who has lived across the street from the couple near Breakwater Beach for nearly 40 years - trespassed on two separate occasions in 2008 and 2009, saying he set up a beach chair and umbrella on their property south of the mean high tide mark on the Long Island Sound. The Riveras' property abuts a public road-end owned by Southold Town to the east, and east of that, , owned by the .
"The Riveras could not convey exactly what property they owned, and their recollection of the alleged trespasses were completely faulty," said David Raimondo, Calabro's attorney, outside the State Supreme Courtroom in Riverside.
In order for the trespass charge to have been affirmed, the prosecution in this case had to prove with a "fair preponderance of credible evidence" - more than half of the evidence - that not only did Calabro entered the Riveras' property, but that he did so intentionally, without justification and permission from the Riveras.
Throughout the trial, the Riveras' lawyer, Jared Behar, elicited testimony from each of his witnesses recounting incidents where they said Calabro confronted the couple in a hostile manner. Defending himself on Friday, Calabro recounted similar incidents about Richard Rivera. Both recalled incidents in the past of the other shouting profanity at the other, though each side also recalled a past where they "broke bread" with one another, enjoying friendlier times with each other before 2006-2007.
The jury deliberated for less than 10 minutes before deciding that there was not enough evidence to determine Calabro trespassed - shortly before a 4:45 deadline set by Supreme Court Judge Joseph Pastoressa. Raimondo cited the "overwhelming evidence" for the quick decision, though Rivera said after the three-day trial, the jury may not have wanted to come back on Monday morning.
As they jury walked out of the courtroom, the 78-year-old Calabro hugged Raimundo, and stood on the verge of tears outside of the courtroom.
"I haven't slept in three or four days," he said.
Friday's court proceedings consisted mostly of defense testimony, as Calabro and surveyor Nathan Corwin Taft were called to the witness stand by Raimondo, and Raimondo showed a 10-minute long video of the property in question. Richard Rivera took the stand for the plaintiffs at the beginning of the day, around 10:30 a.m.
Taft, whose surveying company was contracted by the Riveras, testified that mean high water marks can vary widely with storm tides and other tides, and change from day-to-day and week-to-week.
While Calabro stated that he "didn't care" where the Rivera's northerly property line stood, he stated that he knew where the abutting public property line ended, and that he always stayed north of the sand crest indicating the area where water often reaches.
Christine Rivera said in an interview after the case was complete that she does not plan on appealing the ruling. She added in a phone interview roughly an hour after the final proceedings that Behar polled the jurors after the case was over and found that due to a lack of physical evidence - photos of Calabro on their property - the jury felt it could not say that Calabro had trespassed.
"This was his word against ours," she said. "But it doesn't change the fact that if someone does trespass on our property, we will handle the matter accordingly."