January 18, 1998 in Nation/World

Judge Makes Lax Landlady Serve Time In Her Rattrap

Associated Press White
 

Inspired by a movie, a judge sentenced a landlady to live in the building where her tenants have endured without heat, hot water and electricity.

City Court Judge JoAnn Friia said she hopes the sentence will prod 71-year-old Florence Nyemitei into bringing her apartment building up to snuff.

“She wouldn’t want to freeze,” the judge said. “She wouldn’t want to sit in the dark.”

Nyemitei pleaded guilty in December to six violations at the building and was ordered to pay a $5,000 fine and put $15,000 in an escrow account for repairs.

She did neither.

Earlier this month, the heating and hot water system failed. And because Nyemitei hadn’t paid the electric bill, power was cut off to common areas of the building and residents resorted to stringing Christmas lights through the hallways so they could find their way.

On Wednesday, Friia fined Nyemitei $10,000 and ordered her to spend at least four nights a week in the building for the next 60 days.

The judge said she was inspired by the 1991 movie “The Super,” in which Joe Pesci played a landlord sentenced to live in his own building.

“I wanted her to get a taste of her own medicine. Putting her in jail would be fruitless,” Friia said.

On Friday, one night into her sentence, Nyemitei wasn’t happy and said she considered her own building a jail.

“It’s not fair to put me in prison at this time of my life,” she said in the nearly empty two-bedroom apartment where she is doing her time. The kitchen and bathroom were decrepit, though other rooms had been recently redone.

“At least she’ll have to suffer like the rest of us,” said Miguel Casas, who has lived in the building for 32 years.

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