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Arkansas AG sues over landlord sexual harassment

Landlord Charles Warren is accused of sexually harassing his tenants in a Jonesboro properties.
Becky Harlan
Landlord Charles Warren is accused of sexually harassing his tenants at properties in Jonesboro.

Arkansas Attorney General Tim Griffin is suing two Jonesboro landlords over allegations they sexually harassed and assaulted their female tenants.

The landlords, Judy and Charles Warren, owned several properties in the city. Griffin says they violated the Arkansas Fair Housing Act

This law protects renters from discrimination; under the law, tenants cannot be discriminated against for race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or disability. Its language reflects the federal Fair Housing Act, a civil rights law signed by then-president Lyndon Johnson in 1968.

The suit says the two landlords would accept discounts on rent in exchange for sexual favors. It also says they forcibly grabbed their female tenants and regularly entered their apartments without permission.

“Defendant Charles made unwelcome sexual comments to the tenants, touched their bodies without consent, requested sexual acts from them,” the suit says.

One of the allegations involved a woman who was planning to rent a property. She said, as she filled out the paperwork, Charles Warren touched her breasts and rubbed his penis against her hands. She filed a police report against him, then complained to the Department of Housing and Urban Development. During the investigation, the department uncovered more evidence of abuse at the apartment complex.

The suit details stories of four women in the complex accusing him of exposing himself to them and sexually grabbing them, or making suggestive comments about oral sex and the size of their breasts.

The suit said the harassment had long-lasting effects on the tenants.

“Defendants’ conduct described in this complaint caused female tenants to suffer fear, anxiety, and emotional distress, and interfered with their ability to secure and maintain rental housing for themselves and their families," the suit says.

Judy Warren is named in the lawsuit because she also owned the properties. The suit says she “knew, or should have known” about the harassment and discrimination. One of the victims is said to have informed Judy Warren about the assault after it happened.

Griffin is seeking a jury trial, punitive damages and an injunction against the apartment owners. He says the actions of the apartment owners constitute sex-based discrimination and harassment.

Josie Lenora is the Politics/Government Reporter for Little Rock Public Radio.