Abraham L. Giles, a well-known city politician and state marshal, told the State Marshal Commission Thursday that he was just trying to help a woman when he evicted her from her New Britain apartment and took two truckloads of her belongings to his Windsor Street warehouse.
But the commission found probable cause this summer that Giles improperly served the woman the eviction notice, failed to notify the city of New Britain about the eviction, gave the woman "little choice" but to pay him $450 in fees, and is responsible for possible damage to the woman's property.
Diana Rothwell filed a complaint with the marshal commission after Giles evicted her Feb. 16. The commission had found probable cause on various issues in the case earlier this year and referred the matter to its oversight committee for more investigation.
Giles is a former state representative who was arrested in September along with Mayor Eddie A. Perez in connection with an alleged attempt to extort money from a private developer. He has not entered a plea and is seeking a special form of probation.
On Thursday, Giles appeared before the commission's oversight committee with an attorney and two witnesses. During the questioning, he admitted that he evicted the woman on Presidents' Day -- a federal holiday -- and that he left the premises at least twice as his employees evicted the woman.
Giles said he tried to serve the eviction notice to Rothwell Feb. 10, but the man he assumed -- but did not know for sure -- was her husband answered the door with a large dog.
"I wasn't afraid of the dog," Giles told the committee, "but I wasn't going to go past it."
Giles said he served that man, and not the woman he assumed -- but did not know for sure -- was Rothwell sitting on the sofa behind him. No one showed identification.
Giles also said that he had tried several times to follow the law and let the city of New Britain know that he was going to evict Rothwell. But he said several phone calls to the city went unreturned. So at the insistence of the property owner and a real estate broker, Giles began the eviction.
State law says that the marshal's job is to take an evicted tenant's property to the curb, where the municipality is then responsible for its disposal. In this case, though, since Giles didn't notify the city, no one knew to pick up the property. So he loaded it onto his truck and made two trips to his Hartford warehouse, where he stored it.
Initial records showed that he then charged Rothwell $450 for storage. But on Thursday, Giles and another witness, longtime friend the Rev. Paul Ritter, told the commission that the fee wasn't for storage. It was, they said, for transportation. In either case, Giles conceded he did not have New Britain's consent to remove the property from the curb.
"I was between a rock and a hard place. What was I going to do?" Giles said. "I wasn't going to permit [my employees] to just walk off and leave it there."
"Between me and my men, we was trying to help the lady," Giles said.
The oversight committee will now prepare a proposed final ruling to be considered by the entire commission.