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Brockton Housing Authority v. Mello

Appeals Court of Massachusetts, Plymouth

January 26, 2018

BROCKTON HOUSING AUTHORITY
v.
KEITH G. MELLO.

          Heard November 6, 2017.

         Civil action commenced in the Southeast Division of the Housing Court Department on January 25, 2016.

         The case was heard by Anne Kenney Chaplin, J.

          Laura F. Camara for the defendant.

          Caitlin P. Milone for the plaintiff.

          Present: Sullivan, Blake, & Singh, JJ.

          SULLIVAN, J.

         Three months into Keith G. Mello's occupancy of a one-bedroom apartment at the Caffrey Towers development (premises or apartment), the Brockton Housing Authority (BHA) filed an action pursuant to G. L. c. 139, § 19, to void his tenancy. Following a trial, a judge of the Southeastern Housing Court ruled that Mello "engaged in conduct, and allowed his guests to engage in conduct, which constitutes the keeping of controlled substances in the premises." She entered a judgment voiding the lease and permanently enjoining Mello from entering any portion of Caffrey Towers, a Federally subsidized housing development for the elderly and the disabled. See New Bedford Hous. Authy. v. Olan, 435 Mass. 364, 369 (2001) (Plan). Mello appeals from the final judgment.[1] We affirm.

         Background.

         We summarize the facts as found by the judge. Dennis Sheedy, a BHA asset manager, observed Mello's guests arriving at Caffrey Towers in an impaired state, and unwilling (or unable) to cooperate with security. On December 1, 2015, Anthony Giardini, a Brockton police officer who served as the community liaison to the BHA conducted an investigation into complaints in or about the premises. As he approached Mello's apartment, he heard loud voices coming from inside and smelled the odor of "some sort of substance."[2]

         After entering the apartment, Officer Giardini saw three people, including Mello, sitting in a room. There was smoke that smelled like marijuana and crack cocaine. He observed drug paraphernalia in plain view, including a flat mirror "lined horizontally, " lying on a room partition, a debit card, and the remains of what could be a filter for a crack pipe. He also saw two daggers, one of which was next to the mirror within reach of Mello, who was in "an intoxicated state." Officer Giardini concluded that those present in the apartment had been smoking crack cocaine and marijuana and that the complaints he had been receiving were valid.

         On December 21, 2015, Officer Giardini returned to the apartment to find paramedics, police, and two unconscious people. He concluded that the two had used heroin based on their responses to the administration of Narcan to reverse an opioid overdose, their physical appearance, and the syringes in their backpacks.[3] Mello was present in the apartment, which was in the same general condition; the horizontal mirror was still there. In Giardini's opinion, the apartment was fashioned in such a way as to be used to consume narcotics.

         Officer Giardini subsequently filed criminal complaints against Mello, charging him with disturbing the peace, maintaining a disorderly house, and knowingly being present where heroin was kept. The charges were pending during the § 19 proceedings, which began with the complaint on January 26, 2016, and concluded on February 18, 2016, with the issuance of the judge's findings and rulings. Although the judge granted a brief continuance when Mello expressed his desire to testify, Mello did not testify in the § 19 proceeding because it progressed quickly and the criminal charges remained pending.

         D ...


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