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Cohoes Housing Authority v. Doe

City Court of Cohoes

February 28, 2018

Cohoes Housing Authority, Petitioner-Landlord,
v.
Jane Doe, Respondent-Tenant.

          Goldberger and Kremer, (Brian Kremer, Esq. of counsel) Albany, for Petitioner-Landlord.

          Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York (Debra Ann Collura, Esq. of counsel), for Respondent-Tenant.

          THOMAS MARCELLE, JUDGE.

         Cohoes Housing Authority ("CHA") brought a holdover proceeding against Jane Doe ("Doe"). [1] The Court held a trial and the testimony and evidence established the following:

On a warm late fall afternoon, the children at the Cohoes Manor Sites were playing basketball. Among the participants were Lisa Simmons' 12-year-old son and Jane Doe's 6-year-old daughter. Simmons was camped outside her apartment observing the game. She testified that her son called her over for a drink. She walked the short distance from where she was seated to the children.

         At this point, Doe and Simmons became involved. Simmons claims that Doe inexplicably became incensed that Simmons was providing her own child with a drink. Simmons, according to her, responded calmly that there was no reason to be upset - it was only a drink on a hot day. Simmons says that Doe refused to let it go. Instead, Doe responded to Simmons' innocuous comments by calling her fat and hurling curses at her. Upon cross-examination, Simmons expanded on this part of her story. She amended her direct testimony to include that she, in addition to giving her son a drink, also complimented a child on the fantastic shot he had made - and because of the clamor on the playground, she, of course, had to raise her voice at the child to be heard.

         Simmons says that the next thing that she did was to turn and walk away. At this point, she admits saying that "I rather be fat than a ho, " but she assured the court that this remark was directed at no one in particular and by no means towards Doe who had just previously called her fat. After making this comment, Simmons heard someone running at her. She did not pivot to see what was happening, but rather she kept her back to the fast-approaching person. According to Simmons, Doe knocked her to the ground, mounted her and then rained multiple blows upon her face and neck.

         Except for the part of her testimony where Simmons says that she raised her voice on the basketball court and was later hit by Doe, the court finds Simmons's testimony incredible and unreliable. Rather, the court believes the most honest and accurate version of events comes from Emily Macie. Macie also resides at Cohoes Manor Sites with Doe and Simmons. On the day in question, Macie was on Doe's porch with Doe watching the children play basketball. She remembers that the children were horsing around as usual - "they were being crazy and rowdy like normal kids." At some point, Simmons rose from her chair and started yelling at the children in an altogether inappropriate manner. Macie heard Simmons berating the youths by demanding that they stop their "bull sh**" and calling certain children "scumbags, " including Doe's six-year-old-daughter.

         At this juncture, Doe intervened and engaged Simmons in a verbal altercation. The unpleasantries escalated - Doe called Simmons fat, Simmons called Doe a whore - no more words were exchanged after that. Doe bolted from her porch and made a beeline for Simmons who was at the gate to the basketball court. Macie pursued. Doe connected with two lefts to Simmons' head before Macie wrestled Doe away. Simmons never swung back at Doe. After being hit, Simmons retreated to her chair, sat down and then flopped to the ground.

         The Cohoes Police were quickly summoned to the scene. Doe was charged with harassment in violation of Penal Law § 240.26(1). When the police asked Simmons if she needed medical attention, Simmons told the officer that she was fine. The next day, two bruises had manifested on Simmons' face - one on the lower right side of her jaw and one on her right ear.

         CHA was informed of the incident which it considered a breach of the lease. In particular, Doe violated the lease covenant that she would not engage in criminal activity which threatened the health, safety and peaceful enjoyment of another tenant. Doe wrote a letter to CHA explaining that she was provoked, that she had special circumstances that explained her violent reaction to the provocation and that she was remorseful. CHA was unpersuaded that Doe should receive a second chance, it remained steadfast in its demand that Doe surrender possession of the apartment. When Doe refused to vacate her apartment, CHA commenced this holdover proceeding.

         With some additional elaboration and collaboration, Doe's letter mirrored her trial testimony. While the details of Doe's explanation are quite sensitive (and personally painful), nevertheless, they need an exposition to comprehend fully Doe's defense.

         First, Doe testified that when Simmons called her daughter a scumbag, she went into "mamma bear" mode and began yelling, swearing and insulting Simmons. But the moment that Simmons looked straight at her and called her a whore, "a switch flipped" and she launched a physical attack upon Simmons. Doe explained there was a compelling reason for the switch flipping.

         Doe testified that at age fourteen she was raped and that her rapist kept calling her a whore throughout the entire ordeal. The rape had a devastating effect; it produced profound anger issues. Doe, at the time of this incident, was being treated by a psychiatrist for intermittent explosive disorder. Just before the incident, she had changed medication and before it became effective, she was susceptible to angry outbursts. Finally, Doe ...


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