Prosecutors are trying to close the American Inn, 10220 U.S. 42, in Jerome Township. Officials claim the motel is a public nuisance and a drain on the resources of the Union County Sheriff’s Office.
(Journal-Tribune photo by Will Channell)
Calling it a public nuisance, law enforcement officials are looking to close a Jerome Township motel.
Union County Prosecutor Dave Phillips has filed a motion for temporary and permanent injunction against American Inn, 10220 U.S. 42, in the New California area.
The matter was scheduled for a hearing this week in the Union County Common Pleas Court, but attorneys on both sides hope they have a solution.
“It appears that there may be a potential sale of the property along with the proposal that the old hotel may be razed,” according to a joint motion asking the court continue the hearing.
Sanjay Bhatt, attorney for motel owners Nimeah Arora and Nutan Arora, said the owners should know within the next 50 days whether the sale will or will not happen.
“The parties will continue to discuss a resolution of this matter,” according to the motion to continue. “However, if it is determined that the sale of the hotel will occur and the same is razed, this may resolve the underlying issues herein.”
The court set the next hearing for 2 p.m., Oct. 26.
Prosecutors have asked the court to close the motel and have the sheriff sell the furniture, fixtures and movable property. The motion also asks the court to forbid the owners from “conducting, maintaining, using, occupying or in any way permitting the use of a public nuisance anywhere in Union County…”
The motion asks the property owners to pay the legal costs of the injunction.
The prosecutor’s original motion to close the motel alleges it has been used for “the purpose of trafficking, possessing or abusing controlled substances. Additionally, the document alleges the motel permits “conduct associated with lewdness, assignation or prostitution.”
Prosecutors say conduct at the motel, “substantially interferers with the public decency, sobriety, peace and good order.”
“The Union County Sheriff’s Office began investigating the premises after receiving numerous calls and/or complaints about on-going drug sales and other issues occurring at the premises,” according to the motion.
The motion details that between September of 2013 and Aug. 2016, the Union County Sheriff’s office had about 139 calls to the motel requiring a deputy.
The court document explains, “this high amount of calls and subsequent dispatches represents a drain on the resources of the Union County Sheriff’s Office.”
“Many of the calls involve drug activity on the premises,” according to court documents.
The motion documents some of the calls including calls responding to underage girls having sex with adults, use of heroin, cocaine, prescription and methamphetamines, domestic violence, prostitution, trafficking in drugs, theft, overdoses, threatened violence and overcrowding.
The motion also details a series of inspections by the state fire marshall. Inspectors found inoperable smoke detectors in numerous guest rooms, cooking equipment in the guestrooms, extension cords being used as electrical wiring, broken windows, open junction boxes, unmaintained fire extinguishers, dirty carpets, mattresses, bedding and furniture.
“In another room, evidence of bed bugs was present,” according to the court documents. “In one room, the inspector found a dirty syringe in a dresser drawer…”
Court documents also list that “odors or marijuana and other evidence of drug use was also observed.”
Some of the violations were addressed, according to prosecutors, while others were not.
Bhatt responded that the motel is a lawful business run “in the orderly manner in which such enterprises are ordinarily conducted and defendants have taken appropriate measures to address real and perceived criminal activity.”
The motel owners said they “lack sufficient independent knowledge and/or information” about the allegations and denied many of them.
The motel owners denied that calls for service to the motel represent an unreasonable drain on the Sheriff’s Office.
Bhatt wrote that the owners of the motel “have absolutely no basis to deny its accommodations to customers arriving with no known prior history of infractions at the hotel premises.”
“Defendants simply cannot predict which (if any) of its hotel guests or guests of those guests are inclined to commit crime,” according to Bhatt’s response.
Once the room is rented, the owners have little option, Bhatt wrote.
“Certain acts complained of in the complaint are acts of third parties over which defendants have no control, no reason to control or right to control,” according to the response.
Bhatt explained, “In some instances, the only way hotel management can catch criminal activity would be to violate the privacy rights of its guests, which would be neither legal or commercially responsible.”
The property owners have asked the court to dismiss the prosecutor’s motion and to make the state pay their expenses.
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