IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE CENTRAL DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
W. RUSSELL SMITH and
The United States of America alleges:
- This action is brought by the United States of America on behalf of Vanessa Shepard, Le'Jon Shepard, and the South Suburban Housing Center ("SSHC"), pursuant to Section 812(o) of the Fair Housing Act, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 3612(o).
- This Court has jurisdiction over this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1345 and 42 U.S.C. §§ 3612(o).
- Complainant Vanessa Shepard is a white woman. Complainant Le'Jon Shepard is an African-American male.
- Complainant SSHC is a non-profit fair housing enforcement agency with its principal place of business at 18220 Harwood Avenue, Suite 1, Homewood, Illinois, 60430.
- At all times relevant to the allegations contained herein, Defendants owned and managed a 32-unit apartment and townhouse complex located at 817, 820, 841, 865, 880, and 889 Lindsey Lane in Bourbonnais, Illinois, in the Central District of Illinois.
- Defendants' apartment and townhouse complex is a dwelling within the meaning of Section 802(b) of the Fair Housing Act, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 3602(b).
- Venue in this Court is proper pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b)(2).
- On or about March 11, 2001, Complainants Vanessa and Le'Jon Shepard met Defendant W. Russell Smith at the subject property and viewed an apartment advertised for rent by Defendants. Mr. Smith informed the Shepards that they were the first people to view the apartment. The Shepards completed the rental application and returned it to the apartment mailbox as instructed the next day.
- On or about March 13, 2001, Ms. Shepard called Defendants to inquire regarding the status of the application. During the call, Mr. Smith told Ms. Shepard that he had shown the apartment to someone else before them and he was "going to see how things work out" with that applicant or words to that effect.
- Following the conversation with Mr. Smith, and upon Ms. Shepard's request, a friend of Ms. Shepard subsequently called the Defendants in March 2001 and was informed that the apartment was available.
- Mr. Smith ultimately rented the apartment to a Caucasian couple with an adult son.
- Believing that they had been the subject of discrimination in housing based upon Mr. Shepard's race, the Shepards sought counseling from SSHC. As a result of the Shepards' complaint, SSHC had testers contact the Defendants and ask about the availability of the apartment unit.
- Two Caucasian testers spoke with Ms. Smith on or about March 14, and March 16, 2001 and made appointments to see the apartment. Ms. Smith told these testers that the apartment was still available. Ms. Smith also asked the female tester while on the phone whether the tester had any children.
- On or about June 3, 2001, Ms. Shepard spoke with Ms. Smith regarding another apartment listed for rent in the Kankakee Daily Journal. During the telephone conversation, Ms. Smith recognized Ms. Shepard's voice. Although Ms. Smith said that she would have her husband call Ms. Shepard back to arrange a time to view the apartment, the Shepards never received a call from the Defendants.
- In August 2001, after seeing an advertisement listing a townhouse for rent by Defendants, SSHC engaged six additional testers (three Caucasian and three African-American) to inquire regarding the townhouse's availability. On August 9 and 10, 2001, Ms. Smith told each of the three Caucasian testers that a unit was available. Defendants asked each of these testers whether any of the people living in the unit would be children.
- Mr. Smith made statements to the Caucasian testers indicating, inter alia, that he discouraged families with teenagers from living in the subject property; that it was "good" that a tester had no children; and that he was not going to rent to another prospective tenant with two teenagers because teenagers caused trouble.
- On August 9 and 10, 2001, the Defendants told each of the three African-American testers that the townhouse was probably rented or that so many appointments had been scheduled that Ms. Smith did not want to make any more appointments at that time. None of the African-American testers was invited or otherwise permitted to make an appointment to view the townhouse.
- On September 6, 2001, Complainants Vanessa Shepard and Le'Jon Shepard filed a complaint of discrimination (HUD Form 903) with the Department of Housing and Urban Development ("HUD") alleging that Defendants had discriminated against them on the basis of race or color in violation of the Fair Housing Act, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 3601 et seq.
- On October 4, 2001, Complainant SSHC filed a complaint of discrimination (HUD Form 903) with HUD alleging that Defendants had discriminated against it on the basis of race or color and familial status, in violation of the Fair Housing Act, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 3601 et seq.
- Pursuant to the requirements of 42 U.S.C. §§ 3610(a) and (b), the Secretary of HUD ("Secretary") conducted and completed an investigation of the complaints and engaged in conciliation efforts, which were unsuccessful.
- Thereafter, the Secretary prepared a final investigative report based upon the information gathered during the investigation, and the Secretary, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 3610(g)(1), determined that there was reasonable cause to believe that discriminatory housing practices had occurred. HUD issued its Determination of Reasonable Cause on September 29, 2004.
- HUD issued its Charge of Discrimination against the Defendants on September 29, 2004, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § § 3610(g)(2)(A), charging Defendants with engaging in discriminatory housing practices in violation of the Fair Housing Act, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601, et seq.
- On October 14, 2004, Complainant Vanessa Shepard made a timely election to have the claims resolved in federal court, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 3612(a).
- Subsequently, on October 20, 2004, the Secretary, through the General Counsel of HUD, authorized the Attorney General to file this action on behalf of Complainants, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 3612(o)(1).
- Therefore, by the conduct alleged above in paragraphs 1 through 21, Defendants have engaged in discriminatory housing practices by:
- denying, or refusing to negotiate for the rental of, or otherwise making a dwelling unavailable on the basis of race, color, or familial status, in violation of Section 804(a) of the Fair Housing Act, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 3604(a);
- discriminating against any person in the terms, conditions, or privileges of rental of a dwelling because of race, color, or familial status, in violation of Section 804(b) the Fair Housing Act, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 3604(b);
- making statements, with respect to the rental of a dwelling that indicates a preference, limitation, or discrimination based on familial status or an intention to make any such preference, limitation, or discrimination, in violation of Section 804(c) the Fair Housing Act, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 3604(c); and
- representing because of race or color that any dwelling is not available for inspection, sale, or rental when such dwelling is in fact so available, in violation of Section 804(d) of the Fair Housing Act, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 3604(d).
- As a result of the conduct or actions of the Defendants, Complainants Vanessa Shepard and Le'Jon Shepard suffered damages and they are aggrieved persons within the meaning of 42 U.S.C. § 3602(i).
- As a result of the conduct or actions of the Defendants, Complainant SSHC suffered injury and damages, including the diversion of its resources from its counseling, referral, educational, and other programs and is an aggrieved person within the meaning of 42 U.S.C. § 3602(i).
- The discriminatory conduct or actions of the Defendant were intentional, willful, and taken in disregard of the rights of the Complainants and others.
WHEREFORE, the United States of America prays that this Court enter an ORDER that:
- Declares that the discriminatory housing practices of Defendants W. Russell Smith and Bonnie Smith, as set forth above, violate the Fair Housing Act, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601 et seq.
- Enjoins Defendants, their employees, agents, successors, and all other persons in active concert or participation with any of them, from continuing to discriminate on the basis of race or color or familial status against any person in any aspect of the rental of a dwelling, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 3612(o)(3) and 3613(c)(1); and
- Awards monetary damages to the Complainants for their injuries caused by the discriminatory housing practices of Defendants pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 3612(o)(3) and 3613(c)(1).
The United States further prays for such additional relief as the interests of justice may require.
| JAN PAUL MILLER |
United States Attorney
JAMES A. LEWIS
(N.C. Bar 5470)
Assistant U.S. Attorney
318 South Sixth Street
Springfield, IL 62701
Phone: (217) 492-4450
| ________________________ |
R. ALEXANDER ACOSTA
Civil Rights Division
STEVEN H. ROSENBAUM
Chief, Housing and Civil
Civil Rights Division
Document Filed: November 15, 2004 > >