Sober living facility owners claim Police, Fire departments used excessive force
By André Coleman 03/04/2014
Owners of a Pasadena sober living home who are currently facing nearly 200 misdemeanor charges in relation to the property and some of their tenants have filed claims for damages against the city for alleged “intimidation” and “civil rights violations.”
Felicia Edelman and David Wohlman, who operate Uncle Dave’s Sober Living House at 389 Ashtabula St., filed separate claims for $25,000 or more each on Feb. 14.
Edelman and Wohlman are due back in court on Thursday, March 13 for a pretrial hearing, with trial expected on April 28.
Dell Varela, Robert Silva, Alfonso Guitterez, Garrett McDuffie, Patricia Muro, Jesse Delgado, William C. Miller and John S. Nicholson — all listed as witnesses in Wohlman’s and Edelman’s claims — are residents of the Ashtabula Street address. They have also filed separate claims for damages against the city.
Armed with a search warrant, police raided the house on April 9.
“It was early morning and I heard, ‘police, search warrant,’” wrote Varela. “A large gun was aimed at me and I was scared out of my mind.” The other residents said they were forced out of the house and videotaped without their permission. During the search, police found beds for 27 people living in the two-story home. The raid was led by the City Resources Against Substandard Housing (CRASH) Unit, a multi-agency task force used to identify and address neighborhood crime problems.
In August, prosecutors filed 192 misdemeanor charges against Edelman and Wohlman, among them alleged violations of the state Fire and Health and Safety codes, as well as Pasadena’s Municipal Code.
“The CRASH team entered our sober living [home] by force with submachine guns and handguns pointed at our residents,” Edelman wrote in her claim.
The inspection came on the heels of an investigation launched after fire killed two people living at an unlawful boarding house on El Sereno Avenue. The owner, Jeanette Broussard, faces 136 misdemeanors. The city also filed 141 charges against former City Council candidate Nicholas Benson—who uses several other names, including Nicholas Mnkandla — and his wife Eva Meyers for a facility they operate at 280 W. Washington Blvd.
Broussard’s trial is set for April 3. Benson and Meyers face trial on April 7.