October 7, 2004
HUD CHARGES CHICAGO MAN WITH VIOLATIONS OF FAIR HOUSING ACT
Peter Altmayer allegedly intimidated and threatened his Jewish neighbors
WASHINGTON - The Department of Housing and Urban Development today announced that it charged Peter
Altmayer of Chicago with violating the Fair Housing Act when he harassed and intimidated his neighbors based upon their national origins (Israel and Mexico) and religion (Jewish).
HUD's investigation showed that in October 1999, Elie Bitton and his family purchased a home next door to Altmayer on Jarvis Avenue in Chicago Illinois. During Bitton's initial meeting with his neighbor, Bitton asked Altmeyer if he was Jewish. Altmeyer responded that he hated Jews. The complainants allege that the harassment began shortly after that first meeting and has continued for over five years.
Altmayer's conduct included shouting obscenities and death threats, throwing bricks at the Bitton residence,
exposing himself and making a number of anti-Semitic remarks. He also
- Swore at Sylvia Bitton and asked her "Why don't you go back to South America?"
- Threw a glass bottle and stones at the Bitton home.
- Gave the Bittons' daughter "the finger," grabbing his crotch and exposing himself to her.
- Pushed the Bittons' son from his bicycle and made fun of his and his friends' yarmulkes.
- Threw garbage over the fence.
- Hit Mrs. Bitton in the face with a tree branch, causing damage to her eye.
- Hit Mr. Bitton in the face with his fist.
- Yelled, "Go back to Israel, you xxxxxxx Jew. I hate your kind. I'm going to kick your xxx."
"No family should be subjected to the torment this family went through," said Carolyn Peoples, HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. "The right to live where you want, without regard to religion or national origin is one of the cornerstones of the Fair Housing Act."
A hearing on the charges is scheduled to be held by a U.S. Administrative Law Judge on January 4, 2005, in the Chicago area, unless either the complainant or respondent elect to have the case decided by a federal judge in
U.S. District Court. An election to go to district court must be made by October 19, 2004.
Housing discrimination charges heard before an ALJ carry a maximum civil penalty of $11,000 for a first offense in addition to actual damages, including emotional distress damages, for the complainant, injunctive or other equitable relief, and attorney fees. Sanctions can be more severe if the respondent has a history of housing discrimination. Should either party elect to go to federal district court, either party may request a jury trial. A district court may award the damages available in an administrative proceeding and may also award punitive damages.
In either forum, an attorney from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development or an attorney from the United States Department of Justice brings the case on behalf of the complainants. The complainants and the respondent have the right to be represented by his or her own attorney.
HUD is the nation's housing agency committed to increasing homeownership,
particularly among minorities; creating affordable housing opportunities
for low-income Americans; and supporting the homeless, elderly,
people with disabilities and people living with AIDS. The Department
also promotes economic and community development as
well as enforces the nation's fair housing laws. More information about HUD and its programs is available on the Internet and espanol.hud.gov.
People who believe they are the victims of housing discrimination should contact HUD at (800) 669-9777 or DOJ at (800) 896-7743 or (202) 514-4713. Additional information is available at www.hud.gov and www.usdoj.gov.