NESCONSET, NY – In a recent development, Terence Wolffe of Mastic has pleaded guilty to charges of Criminal Mischief in the Fourth Degree and related offenses. The charges stem from intentional damage caused to parkland in Walter S. Commerdinger Jr. County Park. As a result of his guilty plea, Wolffe is now obligated to contribute socially, physically, and financially to the county’s efforts to improve the environment.
Suffolk County District Attorney Raymond A. Tierney expressed satisfaction with the outcome of the case.
“This is the perfect balance of what we believe is the future of combatting environmental crimes. Not only will this defendant have to pay for the damage he has done, but he is also mandated to be a part of the solution or face jail time. Beyond simple remediation, this court-mandated comprehensive plan develops, cleans, and adds stewards of environmental care in Suffolk County.”
According to court documents and Wolffe’s own statements during his plea allocution, the defendant engaged in destructive activities within Walter S. Commerdinger Jr. County Park in Lake Ronkonkoma. Beginning in April 2023, Wolffe ventured off the designated trail and excavated a personal “hang-out” spot in the woods. Using machetes, axes, and shovels, he cleared native trees, removed vegetation, and dug up a significant portion of the ground, covering an area of approximately 1,150 square feet.
In addition to piling up the displaced brush, soil, and tree limbs on adjacent parkland, which smothered other native vegetation, Wolffe also severely damaged the roots of some standing trees. This action posed a risk to those on the trails, as the weakened trees were susceptible to falling. Furthermore, Wolffe’s excavation caused the adjacent wetland to flood into the pit.
Suffolk County Park Rangers detected Wolffe’s activities in November 2023 and subsequently confronted him at the scene. After a thorough investigation, he was arrested on December 5, 2023. Wolffe was also cited for carrying a machete on county parklands.
In December, District Attorney Tierney introduced the “Evergreen Initiative,” a comprehensive plan aimed at countering the destruction of Suffolk’s natural environment. As part of this initiative, the District Attorney’s Office is committed to incorporating environmental stewardship into plea agreements. Wolffe’s case serves as an example of this approach, as his plea conditions require him to accumulate a total of 100 “Green Points.”
To fulfill this requirement, Wolffe must earn at least 50 Green Points within seven months of entering his guilty plea. He must then acquire any remaining points within six months of his sentencing. Failure to do so will result in jail time. Wolffe is also obligated to file monthly progress reports to the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office and submit a personal statement detailing his experiences, interactions with relevant organizations, ideas for future environmental endeavors, and lessons learned.
On February 2, 2024, Wolffe pleaded guilty before Supreme Court Justice Richard Ambro to Criminal Mischief in the Fourth Degree, a Class A Misdemeanor, as well as eight counts of Suffolk County Parks violations. He is represented by Steven M. Politi, Esq., and his next court appearance is scheduled for September 3, 2024.
Assistant District Attorney Jed L. Painter of the District Attorney’s Biological, Environmental, and Animal Safety Team (BEAST) is prosecuting the case, with investigative assistance from the Suffolk County Parks Department.