UPDATE: January 26, 4:50 p.m.
By Stephen J. Kotz
Sean Ludwick, the 43-year-old developer, who has been charged in the fatal accident that killed Paul Hansen, 53, a Sag Harbor real estate agent and builder last summer, was ordered held without bail in Suffolk County jail by Justice Fernando Comacho in Suffolk County Criminal Court in Central Islip on Tuesday.
Mr. Ludwick had been out on $1 million bond since shortly after the August 30 crash that killed Mr. Hansen, but was arrested on January 19 after the Suffolk District Attorney’s office charged he had been plotting to flee the country after a recent trip to Puerto Rico. While there, authorities said Mr. Ludwick took sailing lessons and inquired about purchasing a 50-foot sailboat that could be sailed to South America, going so far as to wire $385,000 for the purchase to an undisclosed location there.
“I don’t think there is any bail package that would ensure his return to court,” Justice Comacho said after listening to John Scott Prudenti, the chief of the DA’s Vehicular Crimes Bureau, recite from a seemingly limitless list of Google searches investigators had retrieved from Mr. Ludwick’s cellphone after exercising a search warrant on his Bridgehampton home on January 15.
“What is expatriate life like in Venezuela?”, “Five countries that have no extradition treaties with the United States,” “How do fugitives escape,” “How escaped killers give themselves away,” “How to be an effective liar,” and “Trial in absentia” were among the litany of searches titles Mr. Prudenti offered to the court.
Mr. Prudenti said the searches began immediately after Mr. Ludwick was arraigned on a 13-count indictment, including six felony charges, the most serious of which is aggravated vehicular homicide. He faces between 10 and 32 years in prison if convicted of the most serious of the charges.
Prosecutors said they were tipped off about Mr. Ludwick’s plans by an FBI agent moonlighting as a sailing instructor as well as a hotel employee and another sailing instructor, who District Attorney Thomas Spota told reporters outside court, feared for his own safety after his encounter with Mr. Ludwick.
Benjamin Brafman, Mr. Ludwick’s Manhattan defense attorney, asked Justice Comacho to let Mr. Ludwick serve house arrest at the home he owns on Brick Kiln Road in Bridgehampton and wear an electronic monitor on his ankle. The attorney said Mr. Ludwick would be escorted by two off-duty or retired police officers to and from appointments at his office in Manhattan and would need court approval to leave his home for medical appointments.
Mr. Brafman said that while Mr. Ludwick may have fantasized about escaping his troubles, “he never had any intention to leave the United States” and instead had been planning activities he hoped to undertake with his own sons, 12 and 9, before possible incarceration.
“Of all the sailing instructors in the world, we find one who is an FBI agent or a former FBI agent,” Mr. Brafman said of one of the people who authorities said tipped them off to Mr. Ludwick’s plans. The attorney argued that the instructor, who had a friend on the Southampton Town Police Department, tried to steer his text conversations with Mr. Ludwick to make it appear as though he was trying to buy the boat to escape justice.
He painted a picture of Mr. Ludwick as contrite and said after the accident that he had not tried to flee but instead tried to drive from the scene to the Sag Harbor Firehouse on Brick Kiln Road to summon help. He did not call 911, Mr. Brafman said, because his cellphone was in the glove box, which could not be opened after his car slammed into a pole on Rolling Hill Court East in Noyac, next to Mr. Hansen’s house. Mr. Brafman said Mr. Ludwick did not go to the house to call for help because his own children were having a sleepover with Mr. Hansen’s children.
But prosecutors allege that after the accident, Mr. Ludwick dragged Mr. Hansen’s body from his car, before trying to flee, stopping only when his Porsche, which had flat tires and damaged rims on the passenger’s side and was leaking fluids, stalled a few blocks away on Woodvale Street. The DA said he then threw Mr. Hansen’s personal effects into the woods in an effort to cover his tracks.
Far from showing concern for Mr. Hansen’s well being, Mr. Prudenti said when the first officers at the scene asked Mr. Ludwick if anyone else had been in the accident, he replied, “Don’t worry about him.”
UPDATE: January 26, 12:15 p.m.
Sean P. Ludwick, who has been charged with felony aggravated vehicular homicide among other charges in connection with the crash that killed Sag Harbor resident Paul Hansen last summer, is being held without bail after a hearing in the First District Courthouse in Central Islip on Tuesday.
According to a press release issues by the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office, Mr. Ludwick was arrested by Southampton Town police at his Bridgehampton home last week soon after returning from Puerto Rico, where he allegedly made inquiries to hotel personnel and others about his interest in a cash-only deal to buy a boat large enough to safely travel to South America.
State Supreme Court Justice Fernando Camacho explained before remanding Ludwick to jail that the court had been notified of Ludwick’s activity in Puerto Rico by employees of the island hotel he was a guest at, and that the information prompted the immediate issuance of a bench warrant to compel Ludwick to return to court as soon as possible.
John Scott Prudenti, the head of the DA’s Vehicular Crimes Bureau, said Tuesday that as soon as Ludwick had been arraigned, he started plotting to leave the country.
Sean P. Ludwick, who has been charged with felony aggravated vehicular homicide and a slew of other charges in connection with the crash that killed Paul Hansen, a popular Sag Harbor real estate agent and builder on August 30, is being held in Suffolk County Jail in Riverside without bail following a trip to Puerto Rico, where he was making plans to purchase a large boat to travel to South America, according to Robert Clifford, a spokesman for the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office.
Southampton Town police and U.S. Marshals arrested Mr. Ludwick at his home on Brick Kiln Road in Bridgehampton on Tuesday, January 19.
According to Detective Sgt. Lisa Costa of the town police, detectives had received word last week that Mr. Ludwick was in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where he allegedly was exploring purchasing a boat and leaving the country. Town police informed the U.S. Marshals New York/New Jersey Fugitive Task Force and the district attorney’s office.
Mr. Ludwick was taken into custody after New York State Supreme Court Justice Fernando Camacho of First District Court in Central Islip issued a warrant for his arrest on Friday, January 15.
The judge had ordered Mr. Ludwick to surrender his passport when he arraigned him on January 4.
Mr. Ludwick, 43, had been free after posting a $1 million bond two days after the accident. He is facing three counts of aggravated vehicular homicide, one count of vehicular manslaughter in the first degree, one count of vehicular manslaughter in the second degree, and leaving the scene of an accident with an injury, all felonies, as well as misdemeanor driving while intoxicated charges.
He faces between 10 and 32 years in prison if convicted
Prosecutors charge that Mr. Ludwick pulled Mr. Hansen’s body from his Porsche and left him in the road after losing control of the vehicle and slamming into a telephone pole next to Mr. Hansen’s house in Noyac. Police caught up with Mr. Ludwick a few blocks away, standing next to his vehicle, which had stalled from damage caused by the impact, and arrested him for drunken driving. Investigators later found items belonging to Mr. Hansen that they said Mr. Ludwick threw into the woods after his car broke down.