Tenant-landlord dispute settled out of court
December 3, 2014
A small-claims trial involving a tenant-landlord dispute that was set today for Pitkin County Court has been averted through settlement, according to the plaintiff in the case.
Barry Lancett, who brought the suit against Pitkin County resident Vincent Santucci, 91, said he settled out of court last week for less than the $7,500 requested in court filings. Lancett and Santucci are related, according to Lancett.
Court documents filed by Lancett, who represented himself in the case, explain that he was hired by Santucci as a caregiver during the summer and moved to the Aspen area. Their agreement also provided Lancett with a three-year lease that allowed Lancett and his child, a minor, to live in Santucci's West Buttermilk-area house.
On Oct. 11, Santucci — described in a previous Aspen Times story as a former U.S. Navy pilot during World War II and the Korean War — pounded on Lancett's bedroom door and then pushed his body against Lancett, according to the court filing. He yelled at Lancett and insisted that he and his son leave immediately, the document said.
Also that day, Santucci said he bought an airline ticket for the minor and insisted that he leave the next day for another state, Lancett's filing said. When Lancett objected, saying it was not in the best interests of the child, Santucci called authorities, the document said.
A Pitkin County sheriff's deputy arrived and investigated the incident. According to Lancett, Santucci told the deputy there was no lease, but then Lancett produced the lease.
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The deputy attempted to mediate betweeen the two men so that Lancett and his son would not be homeless, Lancett's filing said. Santucci agreed to provide $5,000 so Lancett could secure an apartment, plus additional money (as much as $2,500) for a hotel room and temporary rent to allow Lancett to survive while searching for a job and housing.
According to Lancett, Santucci reneged on the deal soon after and, through a lawyer, "made false claims that (he) was a victim of domestic abuse, abuse of the elderly, and physical assault or threat. Although the said claims were not truthful, a temporary protection order was issued on Oct. 16, 2014."
No arrests have been made in connection with the Oct. 11 incident, according to the Pitkin County Sheriff's Office.
Later, Santucci called Lancett's new employer "with the intent to defame and get (Lancett) fired the day after (Santucci) became aware of the job," the document said.
Santucci created additional hardships for Lancett and the child, the filing said, including tampering with Lancett's mail and stopping payment on a $500 check intended for food and a phone bill.
Via email, an attorney representing Santucci and his spouse communicated with Lancett on Nov. 18, writing, "I have been instructed to advise you that no more money will be forthcoming and that they want you out of their lives completely and permanently," the court filing said.
Reached by phone Tuesday, Lancett declined to elaborate on the case but said it was settled. He added that since the Oct. 11 incident, he's been "living a nightmare." He said Santucci's call to his new employer got him fired but that he is still living in the Roaring Fork Valley and searching for work.
Santucci declined to discuss the case when reached by phone Tuesday but confirmed that it had been settled.