Monday, April 09, 2012

"You'd better have your siding up to code or you're going to jail!"

Judicial over-reach? Police-state? The land of the free and the home of the brave?

Hey, it's only jail time, a strip-search, and breathalyzer tests for a month. What's the problem? How dare here not finish his siding? Who cares if he lacks funds?

State to Investigate Jailing of Burnsville Man After Siding Violations

By Mark Saxenmeyer
ABC 5 Eyewitness News

The Burnsville man who ended up in jail because he didn't finish installing siding on his home is capturing national attention.

Many people are calling Mitch Faber the poster child for government waste and abuse. And now, a state Senate committee has asked him to testify.

Here's the background:

5 Eyewitness News first reported last week (March 17) that Faber was unable to complete the stucco and decorative rock project (siding) on his home after he ran into money troubles when the economy soured. The city of Burnsville sent him a series of warning letters to get his house up to code, ending with a citation. Faber says he was expecting some kind of fine for the violation. Instead, he was ordered to court.

Turns out, the city of Burnsville doesn't have the power to fine. It's up to a judge whether or not to issue monetary penalties, or to assign a different punishment.

The first judge who heard Faber's case, on December 15, 2010, was First Judicial District Court Judge Mary J. Theisen. She said she'd rather see him use his money to finish the siding--and ordered him to do so or face 30 days in jail.

"I left there thinking 'you've got to be kidding'," Faber said. "Jail time for siding?"

Several months later he was arrested on a warrant for failing to appear in court on June 1, 2011 to provide an update on the status of the siding.

In the court transcript from December 15, 2010, Judge Theisen is quoted as telling Faber " have to have the siding May 30, 2011...If so, the 30-day jail sentence will be vacated. If not, just turn yourself in on June 1st and you'll do your 30 days."

Faber contends that at the time of his arrest his siding was in compliance with the code, that he had met the judge's deadline, and therefore there was no need to turn himself in based on the judge's orders. "I did what she asked," he maintains.

After his arrest, Faber was jailed--without bond--for two days. A second judge, First Judicial District Court Judge Karen Asphaug then released him and sent him home to improve the siding one more time. Two weeks later, back in court again, Judge Asphaug heard from Burnsville Assistant City Attorney Samuel Edmunds. According to the court transcript from December 19, 2011, Edmunds told the judge, "Ever since June 1st it's been our position that he's (Faber) supposed to serve 30 days. However...we're pleased at this point that the work has been completed. So if the Court's not inclined to order him to serve the jail sentence, then we'd certainly ask the Court to order him to serve that (remaining) 28 days on electronic home monitoring."

Judge Asphaug agreed. Faver was required to wear an electonic monitoring bracelet at all times while on house arrest. He was also required to submit to random alcohol and drug testing, by blowing into another monitoring device, whenever an alarm went off in his home.

"They would call at all hours," Faber said. "Even at 2 in the morning. And then I would have like 30 seconds to go blow into the tube."

After 5 Eyewitness News' March 17th story aired, it was picked up by media around the country, and prompted many people (via blogs and message boards) to question the legal process that led to Faber's arrest, and his punishment.

According to Faber's wife Jean, "They are completely outraged. And our story, I think, is a personification of government out of control and sort of what's wrong nationwide."

The Fabers have since appeared on national news programs, and their situation has been decried and debated by political pundits and watchdogs. On Thursday, the Minnesota Senate Committee on Local Government and Elections, which is looking into local government abuse, contacted the Fabers to investigate their case. Much has changed in one week.

"We have felt so alone and so bullied and embarrassed," Jean said. "Some official could have stopped the train. But they didn't." The Fabers have now decided to first ask the city of Burnsville to reimburse them for their expenses related to their case. And if that goes nowhere, they're planning to sue.

"We want to make sure this doesn't happen to anyone again," Mitch said.

City, county and state leaders involved in the Faber case again declined requests for on-camera interviews with 5 Eyewitness News but all still maintain they acted properly, and within the confines of the law.
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