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12/19/97 AUGUSTUS RIEDEL v. HUMAN RELATIONS

December 19, 1997

AUGUSTUS RIEDEL, APPELLANT
v.
THE HUMAN RELATIONS COMMISSION OF THE CITY OF READING AND MILLICENT FERRER



Appealed From No. 96-2928. Common Pleas Court of the County of Berks. Judge STALLONE.

Before: Honorable James R. Kelley, Judge, Honorable Bonnie Brigance Leadbetter, Judge, Honorable Samuel L. Rodgers, Senior Judge. Opinion BY Senior Judge Rodgers. *fn1 Judge Leadbetter Dissents.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Rodgers

OPINION BY

SENIOR JUDGE RODGERS *fn1

FILED: December 19, 1997

Augustus Riedel (Riedel) appeals from the order of the Court of Common Pleas of Berks County which dismissed his appeal from the order of the Reading Human Relations Commission (Commission), fining Riedel $500, and ordering him to write a letter of apology to his former neighbor, Millicent Ferrer (Ferrer). We reverse.

From September, 1992 through November, 1994, Ferrer, who is Puerto Rican, and her two young children, were tenants in an apartment in a row home in the City of Reading, located directly above the first floor apartment of Riedel, another tenant, who is white. Beginning in the fall of 1993, Riedel and Ferrer became unfriendly and Ferrer filed a complaint with the Commission in March, 1994, alleging that Riedel was harassing her and her children by making derogatory, obscene and hostile remarks to them.

At the hearing before the Commission in January, 1996, Riedel's proscribed conduct was graphically described by Ferrer's friend, Joseph Santana:

I personally heard Mr. Reidel (sic) address Mrs. Ferrer as an F-ing Puerto Rican whore on many occasions, you need to get your fucking ass out of here. This is America. This is not a place for you. Go back to where you came from.

(R.R. 46a).

[ ]It is also undisputed that Riedel used this vulgar language only when he was in his own apartment, provoked by what he considered excessive noise made by Ferrer's children, and that he delivered these ill-tempered tirades in a loud voice, accompanied by pounding on the walls and ceiling. The Commission found that Riedel's conduct was of a threatening nature, designed to force Ferrer to move from her apartment; that Ferrer was intimidated by such conduct; and that on more than one occasion Ferrer and her children temporarily vacated their apartment in fear of Riedel, and finally moved in November, 1994.

The Commission found that Riedel had engaged in an unlawful discriminatory housing practice by interfering with Ferrer's right to the quiet enjoyment of her apartment in violation of Section 155.07(1) of Reading Human Relation Ordinance, which makes it unlawful:

for any person to coerce, intimidate, threaten or interfere with any person in the exercise or enjoyment of, or on account of his having exercised or enjoyed, or on account of his having aided or encouraged any other person in the exercise or enjoyment of any right granted or protected by this Ordinance.

A "discriminatory housing practice" is defined by Section 155.03(f) of the Ordinance as "an act that is either unlawful under the provisions of this Ordinance or is unlawful under section 804, 805, 806, or 818 of the Federal Fair Housing Act [ 42 U.S.C. ยงยง 3604, 3605, 3606, or ...


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