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A 72-year-old man can evict his son and his son's former girlfriend from his apartment on the grounds that he fears his son, a Brooklyn housing court judge has ruled, emphasizing the seriousness of any allegations of elder abuse.
The eviction proceeding was brought by Norris Hug- gins, the tenant of record for an apartment in southeast Brooklyn. Huggins alleged that he had been forced to leave his apartment because he was afraid of his son, Julian Randolph, who lived there along with Ashley Richmond, with whom he had two children. Huggins said in an affidavit that "my son has in the past threatened my health and safety, forced me to sign a power of attorney and taken other steps to put me in fear of him."
Richmond and Randolph have since broken up, and only Richmond still lives in the apartment.
Housing Court Judge Susan Avery granted Norris' motion for summary judgment against Randolph and Richmond earlier this year. On July 10, she denied an order to show cause filed by Richmond seeking to stay the eviction.
In the decision in Huggins v. Randolph, 91343/13, Avery rejected various arguments Richmond made in an effort to avoid eviction, calling them "disturbing."
Richmond claimed that she had a tape recording of Norris saying he was not afraid of his son, which she said would prove he had perjured himself. She also accused Norris of causing her breakup with Randolph. She further said that, because his son had moved out, there was no longer any basis for Norris to fear returning to his apartment.
However, Avery, noting that elder abuse is often "hidden" because of the family relationships involved, said that Norris had an absolute right to have his home to himself.
She quoted an opinion written by Justice A. Gail Prudenti for the Appellate Division, Second Department in 2010 in Campbell v. Thomas, 73 AD3d 103, 2nd Dept, that "[i]t is an old, old principle that a court, even in the absence of express statutory warrant, must not allow itself to be made the instrument of wrong."
"Therefore, in compliance with Justice Prudenti's mandate in Campbell, it is incumbent upon judges and court personnel to recognize the signs of possible elder abuse and act to protect society's vulnerable seniors," she wrote.
"Ms. Richmond's conclusion that Mr. Huggins is free to return to the premises because Mr. Randolph moved out, therefore the reason for the 'fear' no longer exists, demonstrates that she fails to grasp, that as long she remains at the premises, regardless of whether Mr. Randolph is there, that the home Mr. Huggins knew, it is not his home," she wrote. "Mr. Huggins has the right to live in his home with the occupants of his choosing, or if he so chooses, no other occupants at all. Mr. Huggins is entitled to be the sole decision maker as to which guests, if any, are invited into his home."
Avery said that Richmond's and Randolph's conduct during the litigation provided further reason to suspect elder abuse.
Their "willingness to publicly act contrary to petitioner's wishes before this court, and to cause petitioner possible public shame by stating in court documents that the petitioner caused their break-up, and committed a serious crime, may be illustrative of the way respondents treat petitioner in private, behind closed doors, in the subject premises, in his home," she wrote.
Norris is represented by Tarik Davis, of Davis, Ndanusa Ilhlas & Saleem.
"I was surprised by the breadth of the decision," Davis said. "She really wanted to explain everything in detail. She really highlighted the elder abuse. She didn't have to do that."
Richmond was pro se. Her contact information was not immediately available.
WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court will consider the free speech rights of people who use violent or threatening language on Facebook and other electronic media where the speaker's intent is not always clear.
The court on Monday agreed to take up the case of an eastern Pennsylvania man sentenced to nearly four years in federal prison for posting violent online rants against his estranged wife, law enforcement officials and former co-workers.
A federal appeals court rejected Anthony Elonis' claim that his comments were protected by the First Amendment. He says he never meant to carry out the threats. He claims he was depressed and made the online posts in the form of rap lyrics as a way of venting his frustration after his wife left him.
At his trial, the jury was instructed that Elonis could be found guilty if an objective person could consider his posts to be threatening. Attorneys for Elonis argue that the jury should have been told to apply a subjective standard and decide whether Elonis meant the messages to be understood as threats.
Elonis's lawyers say a subjective standard is appropriate given the impersonal nature of communication over the Internet, which can lead people to misinterpret messages. They argue that comments intended for a smaller audience can be viewed by others unfamiliar with the context and interpret the statements differently than was intended.
The Obama administration says requiring proof of a subjective threat would undermine the purpose of the federal law prohibiting threats.
The high court said it will consider whether conviction of threatening another person under federal law "requires proof of the defendant's subjective intent to threaten."
For more than 40 years, the Supreme Court has said that "true threats" to harm another person are not protected speech under the First Amendment. But the court has cautioned that laws prohibiting threats must not infringe on constitutionally protected speech. That includes "political hyperbole" or "unpleasantly sharp attacks" that fall shy of true threats.
The federal statute targeting threats of violence is likely to be used more often in the coming years "as our speech increasingly migrates from in-person and traditional handwritten communication to digital devices and the Internet," said Clay Calvert, a law professor at the University of Florida.
Calvert, one of several free speech advocates who submitted a legal brief urging the court to use a subjective standard, said people mistakenly seem to feel that they can get away with more incendiary speech on the Internet, in tweets and in texts.
Elonis' estranged wife testified at his trial the postings made her fear for her life. One post about his wife said, "There's one way to love you but a thousand ways to kill you. I'm not going to rest until your body is a mess, soaked in blood and dying from all the little cuts."
FBI agents visited Elonis at home after the amusement park that fired him contacted law enforcement officials about his posts. After the agents left, Elonis wrote: "Little agent lady stood so close, took all the strength I had not to turn the (woman) ghost. Pull my knife, flick my wrist and slit her throat."
The case is Elonis v. United States, 13-983.
Read more: http://www.newyorklawjournal.com/id=1202659532030/Court-to-Address-Constitutionality-of-Internet-Threats#ixzz34u911wI8
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