On January 8th of this year (2020), I had an eviction unlike any I’ve ever had before!

The defendant was an African-American gentleman in very poor health. I had served him weeks prior to the eviction. I had worked with his many case-workers. No matter what I did he refused to be evicted. As I recall he was being evicted for a “rules violation”, but I don’t remember what it was. Besides, he was on a month-to-month lease, so he could be evicted, by the service of a thirty-day notice, for no reason whatsoever.

This gentleman was fraught with so many health conditions I knew Mesa PD would not want to go “hands-on” with him in a situation like that, and concurred.

Gentle persuasion

On the day of the eviction, his housing case-worker was present, as I had told them what time I would be there. My expectation was they would just walk out the door, but to my horror, the case-worker was actually advising him to be physically removed from the premises. Now, this gentleman was enormous, probably 300 lbs. and had made a subtle threat, that if anyone touched him he would: “do whatever he needed to do to protect himself.”

I’m going to digress for a moment, but this is an important part of the story. I practice intermittent fasting every single day. I eat for eight hours and fast for sixteen hours. I started this eviction an hour before I could start eating again, thinking I would have lunch after the eviction. The eviction went on for well over four hours! One of the things I’ve learned over the years is to not let your personal circumstances affect what you’re doing professionally! I was lucky enough to have a friend nearby who dropped off lunch AND dinner for me! I would have been sunk without her coming by to re-supply me.

I used every single tactic I could think of to try and get him outside. Nothing I did caused him to budge! He simply said he wanted to be arrested inside his apartment before he’d leave. I called Mesa PD, speaking with a sergeant. We agreed that nobody was going to go hands-on with him, but they’d try to get him outside. When PD arrived they were able to coax him out of his bedroom, into the living room, but not outside past the threshold of the door! I was flabbergasted.

Making the call

In desperation I called the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Civil Division. I talked to a sergeant there, explaining the situation. This is the very first time I’ve asked for help in a matter like this, inside the city limits of Mesa. I asked if I could have two deputies respond, and was disappointed when only one arrived. BUT, I was not disappointed when I saw him work. This guy was a long-time veteran in the art of verbal jiu-jitsu. He was a master at human psychology and knew how to talk to people.

It took less than an hour, but he had this gentleman outside, whereupon he put his hands together to be handcuffed. Officer T. MCGEHEE then said: “Sir, I respectfully decline to arrest you.” You should have seen the look on the defendant’s face. Of course, I’d had a key the entire time, and quietly locked the door as we stepped outside.

Now, here’s the sad part: the defendant then refused to leave the complex. What started out as a civil matter, an eviction, became a criminal matter, trespassing. The deputy called Mesa PD for an assist. Three officers arrived, with a sergeant. We tried talking with him, but nothing worked. In the end, he was arrested, and as of this writing (June 2020) the case is still ongoing. I was scheduled to appear in court to testify on behalf of the State this July.

I asked Deputy MCGEHEE if I could write a letter on his behalf, and he declined. We need more people like him in this world, and that’s the point of the story.

I would be blessed to be a Judge with that kind of acumen in human behavior!

— Ed Malles