East Hampton: Wealthy Enclave Turns Celebrity Crime Hotspot

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Justin Timberlake’s recent arrest in East Hampton, New York, places him in an ever-growing list of illustrious celebrities, whose glittering fame did little to keep them out of trouble in this upscale enclave, nestled at the eastern edge of Long Island. This sandy retreat is known to draw those of opulence and fame, many of whom have managed to find themselves in legal bind, essentially of the vehicular kind.

Billy Joel, renowned singer and anointment of pride for Long Island, was amongst the notable celebrities who’ve caught the eye of local authorities. In a remarkable series of events in July 1992, Joel found himself in the crosshairs of the law. Accompanied by commercial fishermen from the East Hampton Baymen’s Association, Joel faced charges of illicitly capturing striped bass in an act of defiance against fishing regulations. These charges, however, were later dismissed. The tribulations faced by the local fishermen due to the stifling regulations catalyzed the creation of Joel’s iconic song, ‘The Downeaster ‘Alexa’’. Joel’s tryst with trouble took a turn for the worse in January 2003, when he swerved off the road, crashing his sleek Mercedes into a tree in Sag Harbor. The ensuing hospitalization, fortunately, did not result in an arrest.

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Another intriguing story involves TV personality and businesswoman Martha Stewart. She was embroiled in a scandal in May 1997, when an appalling accusation was brought against her by a landscaper in her employ. The man, working for real estate magnate Harry Macklowe, alleged that Stewart had intentionally hit him with her car amidst an escalating feud between Macklowe and her, both East Hampton residents. Despite the initial investigations by the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office, charges were not pressed against Stewart. In the words of then-District Attorney James Catterson, “Not every event which adversely affects a person’s life deserves to be litigated in criminal court”.

The list wouldn’t be complete without citing the shocking incident involving Lizzie Grubman, a publicist known for her star-studded clientele including Britney Spears and Jay-Z. On July 7, 2001, following a request to move her Mercedes from a fire lane in Southampton, Grubman backed her vehicle plowing into the crowd, resulting in injuries to 16 innocent bystanders. She was subsequently charged with second-degree assault, DWI, and reckless endangerment. Facing a looming prison sentence of up to eight years, Grubman however, served only 38 days and five years of probation following a plea deal.

Basketball Hall of Famer, Jason Kidd also added his name to the list. In July 2012, Kidd, who was then the coach of Dallas Mavericks, crashed his Cadillac Escalade into a light pole in Southampton. His charges for a misdemeanor DWI led him to probation. In lieu of his guilty plea, Kidd pledged to sensitise Long Island high school students about the hazards of drunken driving. This unfortunate incident marked the twilight of Kidd’s illustrious NBA career.

Former NASCAR CEO, Brian France was another notable figure snared by the law. In an incident in Sag Harbor in August 2018, France was arrested for drunken driving and for criminal possession of Oxycodone after running a stop sign in his flashy Lexus. He pled guilty to the DWI offense and was subsequently mandated to perform 100 hours of community service and attend alcohol counselling.

In the end, East Hampton, with its exclusive blend of art, culture, and affluence, appears to cast an enticing yet unpredictable spell on celebrities. With high-profile shenanigans capturing the headlines, each incident is a poignant reminder that fame can often be an unpredictable journey along the winding roads of East Hampton.