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Avon Lady Back In The Slammer Christmann Jailed For Defying City Law Again

Fri., July 19, 1996

Outlaw Avon Lady Rose Christmann spent Thursday evening in a hospital emergency room, two female jailers by her side.

After months of violating a court order, Christmann was ordered by a judge on Thursday to spend a night in jail for illegally selling beauty products from her home.

But before jail deputies had finished booking the 74-year-old, Christmann complained of breathing problems and was rushed to Kootenai Medical Center.

By early evening, her condition had stabilized and Christmann was returned to jail.

“The whole thing just makes me sick to my stomach,” friend Shirley Prosch said. “She’s not running a house of prostitution. She’s not running a crack house. She’s selling Avon.”

Christmann has been feuding with the city of Coeur d’Alene since 1988 over the Avon shop in her Best Avenue home. City laws ban commercial activity in residential neighborhoods.

Earlier Thursday, Christmann skipped a court hearing where she was to explain why she has continued to sell the cosmetics despite a 1995 court-ordered ban.

“I begged her to come (to court), but she said she wouldn’t,” niece Jane Pittsley said.

Until Wednesday, Christmann had planned to attend the hearing, but she refused Thursday to explain her change of heart.

Judge Craig Kosonen was not entirely surprised.

“I received a call at home from the defendant a few days ago and she expressed a desire to explain her situation to me,” he said in court. “I told her that would not be appropriate.”

He said he urged her to attend the hearing. When she didn’t, Kosonen conducted it without her.

City workers told the judge they had witnessed - through binoculars from outside the shop - Christmann selling cosmetics several times in recent months. Code enforcement officer Paul Telebar said he once saw a customer leaving with “an Avon-type white container bag.”

The covert enforcement was just the latest in a five-year string of undercover operations aimed at Christmann, who twice was denied permission to run the shop legally. City officials were trying to preserve “the residential nature of her neighborhood,” said Mayor Al Hassell.

But Christmann set up shop anyway, eventually even paving her yard for parking. In 1991, Christmann landed in jail after selling lipstick to a plain-clothes cop.

Her incarceration ended when Christmann left by ambulance after collapsing from claustrophobia. The incident later was highlighted on the television tabloid show “A Current Affair.”

The city took her to court again last year and a judge told her she could only sell door-to-door or to people who ordered by telephone. She retaliated by sending him and 20 other officials common law documents demanding $525 million in gold and silver - a common constitutionalist tactic.

“She does not recognize the jurisdiction of this court,” Kosonen said in court Thursday.

City attorney Nancy Strickland told the judge Christmann had so often defied the court that “I have no choice but to ask for her arrest.”

Kosonen charged Christmann with 10 counts of contempt, and sentenced her to 50 days in jail and a $5,000 fine. He suspended 49 days and all but $500 of the fine and put Christmann on two years probation.

Pittsley broke out in tears and Prosch shook her head in disbelief. Pittsley tracked Christmann down at the Avon shop, where the sign read “Closed.”

Christmann spent the day, eyes wet with tears, huddled inside. At 4:30 p.m., she rode with Pittsley to jail wearing a sweater imprinted with an American flag.

Christmann could be returned to jail to complete her sentence if she ever sells cosmetics from her home again.

“It’s absolutely ridiculous the way they’ve harassed her,” Prosch said. “Her husband’s dead and her Social Security is about $600 a month. How do we expect her to live?”

But Coeur d’Alene Mayor Al Hassell said Christmann - time and again - has refused to follow the rules.

“It’s too bad it had to get to this point,” he said. “If she’d complied a long time ago, an awful lot of trouble would have been avoided.”

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo

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