Can a Trip Through the Legal System Turn a Defendant Into Alan Durshowitz?

Can a Trip Through the Legal System Turn a Defendant Into Alan Durshowitz?
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Jailhouse lawyers.  It seems like everyone who's been through the legal system equates the experience to law school.  Six months in the slammer might be equivalent to passing the bar.

It's like a guy calling himself "Doctor" because he's survived a heart attack.

For reasons that escape me now, I became part owner of a 3-unit building in Zion, Illinois in 2015.  The units were fully occupied and we bought the building significantly under market value.

Our first vacancy came up this past February when we lost a long time tenant.  She had always paid her rent on time and kept the place in excellent condition.  She also insisted that we show up on moving day to give her a check for her security deposit.

I don't remember any landlords ever showing up on moving day to return my security deposit.  I don't remember getting any security deposits back, but that may be another issue.

An ad in Apartments.com generated sporadic responses. My partner showed the apartment a couple of times while I was out of town and gave me the rental applications upon my return.

One couple who applied were living in his mother's basement and were waiting for their tax refund to put up the security deposit. I had to pass on that one.

The other application was from a woman with a couple kids who said she wanted to move her kids to a better neighborhood. She wasn't showing substantial income and she had no documentation, but she gave my partner two months rent in advance, in cash.

One phone call and two seconds of googling revealed the following about that woman, who we'll call Deborah:

1. Deborah was living in a better part of town than she would be moving to, but her husband was kicking her out
2. Deborah was arrested for solicitation seven years earlier
3. The following post appeared on Deborah's Facebook page:  "I'm coming for all u bitches all year 2017 fuck a summer I'm on one the disrespect ends here I'm grown but I'm also a grown woman who will tag
that ass!!! So any one of u hoes who reading this post know it's yo ass!!
Kisses"

Numbers 1 and 2 weren't terribly concerning.  Who am I to judge?

The Facebook post was a bit troubling. While it was mostly unintelligible, it suggested someone prone to impulsive behavior and/or substance abuse. It also seemed to be some sort of a challenge, something I didn't think we should invite onto our property.

In the end, my partner's empathetic soul (and greed) won out and we rented her the apartment.

A week later Deborah informed us that the storm door was broken.

The door had been knocked off its hinges, the framing bent out of shape. Since I had just inspected the apartment a week earlier, I knew that it had been in perfect working order before Deborah moved in.

The door was either broken during the moving process, by Deborah's kids or by someone storming out of the house. In any case, we had to replace the door.

The next problem began when Deborah discovered that her boyfriend had no place to park his car at night and street parking is not allowed in Zion from 2:00 am to 6:00 am.

Deborah had been living in Zion and works in Zion and the parking rule is printed on the back of her city sticker.

When she moved in, I showed Deborah her (one) parking spot behind the building, where she could safely park overnight. There are four parking spots behind our building and Deborah is entitled to use one of them.

The problem is that Deborah now has a boyfriend living with her and she feels that she's entitled to two parking spaces. If she were into menage a trois, she might want three parking spaces.

I sent Deborah a polite email, again explaining the parking situation to her. She was indignant and felt that it was unfair that someone else had two parking spaces while she had only one.

That sort of (il)logic is difficult to reason with, but I tried, very politely to explain it to her when I received the following email (excerpted) from her:

"... my past does not have anything to do with me trying to find and have a place to live for me and my children... my income you didn't get to see first hand you have no check stubs and haven't seen my tax return so I beg to differ highly I was sending next month's rent to you today I have 2 months of rent I could give to you but after that email I refuse to send you anything...you obviously know I have been to court and I know the law and that states you are suppose to keep up with your property you can be reported when the weather conditions aren't well and your sidewalks are unaccessible...sounds like your black mailing me to be a tenant and be quiet thanks for writing me I have all I need now"

Don't feel bad, I'm confused, too.

If I believed that she was going to send me two months rent just for the heck of it, I would see a neurologist about my mental deterioration.

The fact that she thinks that she knows the law because of an arrest for solicitation at age 18 validates my opening statement about jailhouse lawyers.

When I got to the part about me blackmailing her to be a tenant, I realized that any further communication with this woman would be futile.  I have since delegated interaction with Deborah to my partner.

Deborah, if you are reading this, you should know that we have heard it all before. Empty promises, excuses for not paying rent, threats and all the usual fake law stuff.

Blackmail can be a federal crime.  If you think you are being blackmailed you should go to the authorities.  Before you do, however consider the following:

1. I don't have to blackmail you to be a tenant, you already are a tenant with eleven months to go on your lease, a legally binding document.

2. For me to blackmail you, I would need to have secret information about you that I could threaten to release if you don't do what I want.  I have no secret information.  Everything I know about you is in the public domain and readily available to anyone with a smart phone.

3. A trip or two through the legal system is not the same as going to law school.

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