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Couple charged in Mystic assault released on bond

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The couple accused of beating a 59-year-old Black woman while she was working at the Quality Inn in Mystic last month were extradited to Connecticut on Monday and have been released on bond, police say.

Philip Sarner, 39, and Emily Orbay, 27, were arrested in Brooklyn, N.Y., on Monday by U.S. marshals and the New York Police Department on warrants issued by the Stonington Police Department charging them with a hate crime and assault, according to the Stonington police.

The pair are accused of beating Crystal Caldwell of Groton twice on June 26 while she was working at the front desk of the hotel, allegedly calling her an "old monkey" and telling her "your life doesn't matter." Surveillance camera footage from the hotel shows a white man punching, pushing and kicking Caldwell. She suffered a concussion and injuries to her face, eye, head, ribs, lungs, back and wrist.

Sarner and Orbay, who were on the run in New York for nearly two weeks, were extradited to Connecticut and arrived at the Stonington Police Department Headquarters about 9:15 p.m. Monday. By 1 a.m. Tuesday, they were released on bond, police said.

Orbay was charged with intimidation based on bigotry or bias and third-degree assault and was released on a $50,000 bond.

Sarner, who was charged with intimidation based on bigotry or bias, second-degree assault and third-degree assault, was released on a $75,000 bond.

M. John Strafaci, Caldwell's attorney, said he and his client were concerned that her alleged attackers had been released.

"We are very concerned that they made bond and that they are back out in the public," he said. "These are two individuals from New York who fled the original scene and then refused to turn themselves in until United States marshals had to capture them."

He said he is worried the pair pose a flight risk. "As far as we know they have no certain address, no employment, certainly no ties to the community," he said. "We are concerned that they will not return to their court date on July 29. We will wait and see and we hope that they will return."

Strafaci said that his office hoped for a higher bond amount, given the circumstances of the case, and plans to ask the court to reconsider the bond when he and Caldwell face her alleged attackers in court — whether virtually or in person — later this month.

He said he also plans to ask for additional conditions on Sarner and Orbay's release, including a no-contact order and other restrictions meant to protect his client.

Sarner has an extensive criminal background, most recently serving time in Attica Correctional Facility for third-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance and first-degree criminal contempt. He was released on parole on Nov. 29, 2019, records show.

On June 26, Sarner, who was staying at the hotel with Orbay, allegedly called down to the front desk to complain that their room did not have any hot water. Caldwell, who was working at the front desk, said he threatened her and then came down to the lobby, where the first attack occurred.

Shortly after, Caldwell walked into a hotel hallway to get some ice for her rapidly swelling face and was attacked again. The video shows she was pushed, punched and kicked in the back.

Police have faced scrutiny over their handling of the incident after the alleged assailants were allowed to leave the state without being charged after being treated at Lawrence + Memorial Hospital in New London.

Stonington police Capt. Todd Olson said police were told they should not come to the hospital due to COVID-19 precautions, and officers intended to apprehend the couple after Sarner and Orbay were released from the hospital and returned to the hotel to collect their belongings.

In a statement last week, L+M spokeswoman Fiona Phelan said the hospital's policies about allowing police into the facility haven't changed due to COVID-19 other than requiring officers to be screened for the disease. She declined to comment on the exact conversation that took place between Stonington police and hospital staff on June 26.

Members of Caldwell's family, community members and local legislators have rallied to support Caldwell since the attack. Groups have protested outside the police department, local business owners have donated gifts and local legislators on Sunday took part in a nearly two-hour Zoom conference to discuss how they plan to ensure justice is served.

The town of Stonington has hired an independent investigator to review how police handled the investigation.

Warrants for Sarner and Orbay were first issued July 1 and a second set was issued on July 10 with upgraded charges. It took 13 days after the first warrants were issued for the couple to be taken into custody. Olson said the two were found in a home on Mackay Place in Brooklyn and they were alone in the residence.

Stonington police said Tuesday that the marshals were able to locate Orbay and Sarner using "information that Stonington Police developed in our investigation" but did not elaborate on how exactly they were found.

The couple, who are believed to live in Nassau County on Long Island, have no known address. They are scheduled to appear in court in New London on July 29.

On Monday, speaking in Strafaci's office, Caldwell said she felt relief and joy knowing that they were in custody and were no longer a threat to the public.

t.hartz@theday.com

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