search
top

Why Laws Dealing With Squatters Must Be Changed.

Jackie Cole

Gerry Clark of Colorado unexpectedly lost her daughter when she passed away in October of 2017.

When Clark went to Colorado Springs to clean out her house, she was met with squatters who were living in the home, one of whom is named Jack (Jackie) Cole.

In these types of cases, it often seems that the squatters have more rights that property owners. Instead of just being issued a “no trespassing” notice and the police removing the illegal occupants of the home, the owners must go through a long legal process to get the squatters evicted.

How long?

In the case of Clark, a judge finally granted an order of eviction 2018 against Cole and the multiple people he had living in the home with him. However, while Cole was living there, they used Clark’s daughters things, including putting up her Christmas lights. When Clark would stop or drive by, Cole and his friends would taunt Clark and until the eviction order, there was nothing the grieving mother could do.

Of course, as it often the case of squatters, when Cole and his friends were evicted, they trashed the home, causing thousands and thousands dollars of damages, and stole a car that belonged to the daughter.

Clark thought she was rid of Cole, but it wouldn’t turn out that way.

In October 2019, Wendy Clark’s sister Michelle went to her mailbox and received a notice of a default judgement to Jack Cole in a case he had filed against her and two others. The amount of the default judgement was $400,000.000.

“It’s a lot of stress I don’t need,” Michelle Clark, Wendy’s sister said.

Michelle is one of three defendants Cole is seeking more than $400,000 in damages.

His lawsuit asked the courts to award him for the following:

$20,000: Attorney Fees
$150,000: Loss of work
$45,000: Medical expenses
$200,000: Punitive damages

Cole’s lawsuit lists the following damages:
1- Defamation
2- “Injured Feelings”
3- Mental Anguish
4- Loss of Work
5- Loss of Social Standing
6- Loss of Reputation
7- Loss of Privacy
8- Medical issues

Cole is a long-time convicted felon and does not have legal counsel to represent him on this civil lawsuit, but that didn’t prevent him from winning his case.

A “default judgment” was granted against Michelle Clark, Wendy’s sister on March 20, 2020.

Judge G. David Miller

Michelle claims she was never served papers on the lawsuit (more on that in a moment) but El Paso County Judge G. David Miller gave a default judgement to Cole because no one from the Clark family showed up to defend the lawsuit.

In his defense, Judge Miller was given papers on the lawsuit that appeared to be correct, but were not. They were forged.

For example, there was a notice of service in the file that claimed Michelle had been served papers on October 9, 2019 by a man named Travis Rickard at the local courthouse.

It makes sense that Rickard claims he served Michelle there because Rickard is a criminal who was serving time in prison but had a hearing that day in court. Where else would he have seen or met Clark other than at the courthouse?

Roger Rickard

Michelle, however, was working that day and time cards show she was at work and no where near the courthouse.

In addition, while the fraudulent papers said that Michelle was served on October 9, 2016, the papers filed for the actual lawsuit say Michelle was served on October 16, 2019 and then those papers filed on October 21, 2019. Those papers were notarized and as they cannot be accurate, because one cannot server papers on a lawsuit that hasn’t been filed until a week later. One wonders if the notary fell down on the job as did everyone else in the Courthouse who failed the Clarks.

There were all sorts of red flags in this case and no one – no one who was supposed to protect the property rights much less the legal rights – of the innocent parties caught them.

Cole and Rickard must be laughing in their cells and munching on the food provided by the people of Colorado.

Michelle Clark has filed a motion to have the judgement set aside, but that will never compensate her for the anguish she and others went through after losing her sister.

Furthermore, it is not as if she could file a lawsuit against Cole and Rickard because of their economic status and being in jail, they are “judgement proof.” Michelle Clark can’t get blood out of a turnip.

We can only hope that the Colorado State Attorney files perjury charges and whatever else fits against Cole and Rickard.

However, this case illustrates the need for reform of squatting laws in the country. Colorado did pass an anti-squatting bill called Senate Bill 15 in 2018, but by the time it was signed, it could not apply to Clark and her situation. Oddly, one of the examples used to get the bill passed was that of Cole and Clark.

Here’s a summary of just one incident reported by Eric Ross of KOAA-TV news in Colorado Springs. There have been numerous others. Wendy Clark, who lived alone, died in October 2017 of natural causes. Shortly after Wendy’s death, her mother, Gerry Clark, appeared at the home to attend to its disposition and her daughter’s belongings, at which time she discovered that there were unauthorized squatters living there. One was Jack Cole, a convicted felon with a lengthy rap sheet. Naturally, Gerry called the police to have these people removed and, presumably, arrested. That presumption turned out to be wrong.

Colorado Springs police explained that, under the law ― which absurdly treated such situations as if they were landlord-tenant disputes ― the police had no authority to remove or arrest the squatters. Gerry would have to go to civil (not criminal) court and pursue the lengthy legal process of having Cole evicted. Three months later Gerry finally got her day in court. Jack Cole brazenly claimed he and the others had a right to the home because he and Wendy Clark were married. That, of course was a flat-out lie; Wendy was single and had never even met Cole. The judge ruled in favor of Gerry and ordered the squatters to leave. Amazingly, Jack Cole walked out of that courtroom a free man with no police waiting to arrest him. Adding insult to injury, after the squatters finally left, Gerry found the home trashed. The squatters broke a window, changed a door lock, stole Wendy’s clothes, furniture, lamps, pictures and even her Pontiac G6 sedan. As far as I know, Jack Cole has never been held to account and Gerry has received no restitution.

According to witnesses who testified at the state legislature during the hearings on SB 15, military service members deployed overseas have been similarly victimized by squatters. Nevertheless, two Democrats, Sen. Rhonda Fields and Sen. Daniel Kagan, voted against the bill in the Senate Judiciary Committee, basing their opposition on the lame-brained notion that it could unjustly endanger homeless people taking shelter from a storm. Sen. Owen Hill, a co-sponsor of the bill, retorted, “I don’t know people who shelter from a storm who change the locks on the homeowner.”

SB 15 will repair the egregious legal loophole that allowed societal predators like Jack Cole to prey on law-abiding property owners with extended home invasions. Predictably, the bill’s passage was stalled by progressive Democrats whose commitment to so-called “social justice” includes a disrespect for property rights and a knee-jerk animus toward landlords. This led to several additional weeks of negotiations in House-Senate conference committees over whether squatters would be dealt with in criminal or civil courts; and whether evictions would be carried out by police or sheriffs. Republicans wanted squatters to be subject to police arrest and criminal prosecution, as a strong deterrent for future squatters. Democrats wanted to keep this a matter for civil courts and sheriffs. In their social justice mentality, Jack Cole and his ilk are something like homeless “undocumented dwellers” who shouldn’t be treated harshly or made to feel oppressed.

[….]

Ultimately, to get the bill passed, Republicans had to compromise, which is better than what we had before. The best news is, if you become a victim of squatters you’ll find the process greatly streamlined. A property owner can now accelerate an eviction by filing a complaint with the county court, along with a signed, formal declaration and a motion for a “temporary mandatory injunction.” Squatters will be served with a summons to appear for a hearing within two days (not five months later) to make their case. And if they fail to appear, the court can order the sheriff to remove them from the premises within 24 hours. Sadly, thanks to Democrats, rather than going to jail, squatters may just go to the next house.

In 2019, a bill was proposed to strengthen Senate Bill 15 by expediting the process to remove trespassers from properties.

Last year’s Senate Bill 15 established an expedited system for property owners to evict those who have moved into their homes or buildings without permission. It was prompted largely by complaints of drug trafficking and other crimes committed by squatters in El Paso County.

Hisey said his proposed Senate Bill 47 would apply that expedited eviction process to vacant land.

But Aubrey Hasvold, advocacy manager for the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, testified that it’s unclear what problem the bill would solve.

The state’s laws against trespassing cover most cases, Hasvold said, and the new law could further criminalize homeless people.

Other witnesses also said property owners’ rights already are protected, and an expedited eviction process could skirt the due process rights of alleged trespassers. (emphasis ours)

The idiocy of homeless advocate Aubrey Hasvold is on full display here. No one is seeking to criminalize the homeless. No one is saying that it is illegal to be homeless. What was proposed was increasing the speed in dealing with the criminal behavior of people. Period.

There should be no issue. “You’re on my property. Get out” doesn’t label homeless as being criminals, but it does rightfully label their illegal activity as criminal.

(As a side note, in Palm Bay there is a “homeless advocate” who has long believed and held that squatting on people’s property is acceptable. It is rumored that individual is running for the City Council. Property owners, and everyone, should be against this type of taking of property this person advocates.)

As Colorado still seeks to increase the speed in which squatters are evicted from properties, all states should look to do the same.

We don’t need to be enabling illegal behavior or those who say such behavior is acceptable.



One Response to “Why Laws Dealing With Squatters Must Be Changed.”

  1. Kye says:

    One needs caution when going on vacation in these places.

  2. […] other day we wrote about the case of a convicted repeat criminal who managed to win a default judgement of $400,000 against a woman […]

top