Cohasset Landlord Ordered to Stay Away From Store Owner Following Bias-Motivated Harassment
DEDHAM – A commercial landlord in Cohasset has been ordered to stay away from his tenant, an Arab store owner, and his family and employees because of bias-motivated verbal harassment and threats, Attorney General Martha Coakley announced today.
On March 10, the AG’s Office filed a complaint in Norfolk Superior Court against Roger Q. Hill alleging a pattern of threatening, intimidating, and coercive behavior toward his tenant. On Friday, Judge Laurence Pierce ordered a preliminary injunction against Hill prohibiting him from entering the business without notice (except in emergency situations) or approaching within 20 feet of the tenant, his family, or employees for any reason unrelated to his role as a landlord. The injunction also prohibits any other civil rights violations.
“We allege this man engaged in a pattern of bias-motivated harassment and unfair business practices that interfered with the victim’s rights and ability to run his family-owned business,” AG Coakley said. “No one should fear for his or her own safety because of who they are or how they are perceived.”
According to the complaint, the harassment began in 2008 shortly after the tenant and his family began operating their pizza restaurant on Hill’s commercial property in Cohasset and has escalated dramatically over the past year. The alleged harassment has included repeated interruptions of business activities without permission, unfounded complaints to the police, and the repeated use of racial slurs towards the tenant, his family, and his employees. Hill also allegedly threatened the tenant’s life and compared one of his employees to the terrorists who flew planes into the World Trade Center.
The AG’s complaint seeks civil penalties and monetary damages for the violations, along with a court order for Hill to stop the harassment on a permanent basis.
The Attorney General’s Office brought this action, following a referral from the Cohasset Police Department, under the Massachusetts Civil Rights Act (MCRA) and the Massachusetts Consumer Protection Act.
Under the MCRA, the AG’s Office may obtain injunctions against individuals who threaten, intimidate, or coerce victims because of their membership in a protected class – race, religion, sexual orientation, or disability, for example – or because they are exercising their rights, such as the right to use public ways or places, the right to associate, or the right to be safe and secure. In August, Cohasset Police filed a criminal complaint against Hill for his repeated harassment of the store owner.
Since taking office in 2007, AG Coakley has obtained more than 40 civil rights injunctions on behalf of victims of hate crimes, often working in close collaboration with police departments and District Attorney’s offices throughout the Commonwealth.
This case is being handled by Michelle Leung, Kimberly Strovink, and Kasha Ambroise, all of AG Coakley’s Civil Rights Division.
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