Interracial Couple Sues New Jersey Town
CAMDEN, N.J. (CN) - A city councilman harassed an interracial couple by sending police and code enforcement to their house 32 times on bogus complaints, including a noise violation when no one was home, the couple claims in Federal Court.
Alfred and Deborah Patterson sued Joseph Strippoli and the Borough of Lindenwold for civil rights and constitutional violations and discrimination.
Deborah Patterson says the harassment began when Strippoli, their neighbor, "made a racial slur to plaintiff, Deborah Patterson, asking her why she had to go and marry someone like her husband, referring to the fact that he was African American."
Strippoli began abusing his authority to harass them in 2004, the Pattersons say.
"Specifically, in what has become a continuous and ongoing pattern of arbitrary and/or discriminatory treatment over the course of the last eight years, defendant Joseph C. Strippoli has abused his authority as a Borough Councilman to have the police sent to the plaintiffs' house at least seventeen (17) times and has caused the Borough of Lindenwold code enforcement agents to be sent to the plaintiffs' house at least fifteen (15) times," the complaint states.
Lindenwold is a town of 17,720 in southwest New Jersey, near the Pennsylvania border. Its household median income of $47,636 is 30 percent below the statewide median of $68,342, and its estimated median value of a house or condo of $158,402 is less than half the statewide estimated median of $348,000, according to city-data.com.
The Pattersons claim Stripploi has reported them because of the noise of their weed whacker and for having a basketball hoop on their curb.
"By contrast, five other non-interracial houses in plaintiffs' neighborhood currently have basketball hoops on the curb, like the plaintiffs, and never have been cited for a code violation," the complaint states.
They say Strippoli sent code enforcement to their home "to look at [their] yard" and "for noise although no one was home."
They claim the Borough of Lindenwold has known for years of Strippoli's abuse of authority, and has done nothing to stop it.
They seek compensatory and punitive damages for race discrimination and civil rights violations.
They are represented by Thomas Bruno II, with Abramson & Denenberg, of Philadelphia.