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Cross Posted at Legal Schnauzer

A 27-year-old Kingsport, Tennessee, man has been charged with aggravated assault after punching his 63-year-old neighbor during an argument over grass clippings.

Jarod Hopson allegedly threw the punches, and Kenneth Jennings wound up with multiple fractures in his face. Jennings reportedly will need reconstructive surgery.

Neighbor disputes always are of special interest here at Legal Schnauzer. They seem to come in endless and fascinating varieties--and Mrs. Schnauzer and I know what it's like to be in the middle of one. Our 10-year legal battle started because of difficulties with a neighbor named Mike McGarity, who we later discovered has at least eight criminal convictions in his background.

No wonder he was hard to deal with. No wonder we wanted to keep him off our property. And as with the case in Tennessee, our experience involved criminal trespassing that led, over a period of years, to an assault. In Tennessee, the trespass and the assault happened almost simultaneously.

The problem in Kingsport reportedly started when Hopson's mother, Jennie Lovelady, objected to Jennings mowing too close to her yard, causing grass clippings to wind up on her property. One witness said Lovelady screamed at Jennings and even laid down in front of his mower.

When Jennings tried to get her to move, an argument ensued, with Hopson coming out of his mother's mobile home to punch Jennings several times.

I know what it's like to be assaulted by a neighbor; Mike McGarity assaulted me, and here is how I described it in an earlier post:

I was the victim of a felony assault in October 2006. My troublesome neighbor, Mike McGarity, essentially stalked me and then hit me in the back with a roadside sign, leaving a bleeding abrasion. There was an eye witness to the attack. . . . McGarity used a "dangerous instrument" and caused "physical injury." Under the law, that's a felony.

When Shelby County officials insisted on treating the case as a misdemeanor, I refused to file a criminal complaint. I have a pending lawsuit that includes a claim for assault and battery against McGarity.

What did I do to incur McGarity's wrath? I walked to the entrance of our neighborhood to remove signs (for-sale signs, garage-sale signs, etc.) that had been unlawfully placed in the right-of-way and were obstructing the view of drivers trying to pull onto a busy highway. I was trying to keep someone from getting hurt or possibly killed. But McGarity was having none of that.

He followed me and started putting the signs back up. When I told him why I was taking the signs down, he said, "Let's get it on, right here." I said I wasn't interested in fighting him, but the signs were going to come back down. When I turned and walked away, he swung a sign as hard as he could and hit me in the middle of the back.

That's an example of how the simplest of acts can lead to an assault, much like the case in Tennessee. It would be interesting to know if Jarod Hopson has a criminal record. My guess, based on his actions and the photo above, is that the answer is yes. By the time, McGarity assaulted me, I knew about his criminal record, which included convictions for violence- and sex-related offenses. At that point, I wasn't surprised at anything he might do.

In analyzing neighbor disputes, it's always instructive to play a game we call "Who's the Jackass?" There's almost always at least one jackass in a neighbor dispute. Sometimes, there are two or more, so it's hard to tell who's really at fault.

I've learned from experience to check for one tip off: Does an individual possess a smart-alecky, vile manner? The first sign of trouble with McGarity came when I called to ask if he could quiet down his dog, a coonhound mix that barked at all hours of the day and night--often for two or three hours at a time. McGarity's response? "You need to get ear plugs." That kind of comment is a pretty clear sign that you are dealing with a jackass. (By the way, if you've never heard a coonhound bark continuously for three hours, you should try it some time. Talk about a treat! There's a reason they are considered great hunting dogs--but not necessarily great pets; their voices travel like you wouldn't believe.)

After proving himself to be a horse's ass, McGarity apparently thought it would be fun to repeatedly trespass on our property. He seemed shock to discover that he wasn't welcome. When I made multiple phone calls to inform McGarity that he, his family members, and guests were to stay off our property--this was after we had witnessed multiple instances of trespassing--he threatened to sue me and said, "We're going to keep on coming."

At that point, I didn't know about McGarity's criminal record. But when I found out about it a few years later, I wasn't at all surprised. (A Schnauzer tip for dealing with difficult neighbors: Check your local courthouses to see if they have a criminal record. If they are world-class jackasses, the answer probably is yes--and public records about arrests often help explain a lot.)

In the Tennessee case, it seems clear that Hopson and his mother, Jennie Lovelady, were at fault. Would it have been nice if Jennings had been mowing in a way that did not blow grass clippings onto Lovelady's property? Sure, but he almost certainly was not violating any statute or ordinance.

Technically, the blowing of grass clippings probably constitutes a civil trespass, and Lovelady could have filed a lawsuit, seeking any damages and an injunction to block Jennings from sending grass clippings her way in the future. But such a lawsuit would probably cost several thousand dollars and most folks likely would not consider the issue to be worth that.

As long as Jennings was on his own property--and by all accounts, he was--he wasn't doing much of anything wrong. If Lovelady had concerns about the grass clippings, she should have waited until Jennings was finished mowing and talked to him by phone or face to face.

Is it possible that Lovelady had previously asked Jennings, in a nice way, not to blow grass clippings on her yard? Yes, it is. Is it possible he ignored her requests or responded in a smart-ass way? Yes, it is. If that was the case, it was unfortunate, but Lovelady's only recourse was to file an expensive lawsuit or learn to live with a few extra grass clippings on her yard. Laying down in front of Jennings' mower and starting an argument was not the way to go.

Lovelady's biggest mistake, the act that turned this into a criminal matter, was going on Jennings' yard. By entering a neighbor's property and laying down in front of his mower, she showed a bizarre lack of respect for boundary lines. That almost certainly amounts to a criminal trespass, which was compounded when Hopson followed her onto the property and punched Jennings.

In addition to the criminal charges, Jennings probably will file a lawsuit for assault and battery, trespass, personal injury, and other torts. We don't know what kind of assets Lovelady and Hopson possess, but they had better hope they have good insurance.

Our guess is that they eventually will wish they had never set foot on Jennings' property.

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Comment Preferences

  •  just finished a bizarre case where (12+ / 0-)

    someone moved a trailer onto a rural lot I own.  The people would not come to the door, they had no mailbox and their cars did not have correct plates  The trailer lacked county registration and as far as I could determine this was an attempt at adverse possession.

    However, I continued to pay the property taxes though the magistrate refused to issue an eviction order since I did not have any names to place on the order  Cops went there but told me if no one answered the door they could do nothing.  My attorney advised me not to move or even touch the trailer since the inhabitants could then sue for malicious mischief.

    Final solution? We took the backhoe and destroyed all the driveways and were standing by when people tried to repair driveways and had them warned for trespassing.  They then agreed to move the trailer but this was one of the more bizarre cases of squatting I have encountered  

    •  Boy . . . (6+ / 0-)

      that is bizarre. Property-related issues never cease to amaze.

    •  I have a similar neighbor story. This one didn't (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      whaddaya

      steal our property with his fences alignment, no, he threw a fence up almost 1/8 of a mile from his house. The problem is the property does not belong to him, period. It was the access for utility companies, an easement clearly described in the property description. He hung a sign on the gate that states and I quote "For acess (a non spelling teabagger) inquire at 1400 Overlook". Problem is even if it were his property the guy is never home, often disappearing for weeks. So if any of the 11 affected neighbors have a power transformer blow, their cable or phone goes out, the power/phone/cable companies have no access to our properties. Not to mention the county used to do mosquito control, kept the cleared part mowed to help alleviate fire threat from the 1,000 or so acres of woods behind our homes. There are floodwater control canals just 100' behind us that need dredged every few years, that hasn't happened in years now thanks to this asshole. To top it off he uses the property as his personal hunting ground, the bear, turkey, and wild hogs that used to be so common haven't been seen in a few years now.
         Florida Dept of Wildlife refuse to do anything. Code enforcement claims it is up to the city police. The city police claim it is a Sheriffs Dept matter. The Sheriffs Dept claims the only recourse we have is to sue. The utility companies refuse to get involved- but they have said they will tear down his fence if it ever stands in the way of their access.
         For being the one who has raised the most hell about it, he has shot out my windshield, knocked my mailbox off it's post and slashed my tires. One of these true gun nut teabagger types, really nuts. He threatened to kill a 73 yr old veteran who is missing one leg for merely being on the property. He pulled a gun on a teenage kid walking his dog on the property. But he doesn't scare me.
         And that is the problem, everyone lives in fear of this asshole, the way he wants it- except for me- and it drives him absolutely ape shit.
         He is absolutely scared to death of me because I refuse to take his shit and have kept the pressure on regardless of his stupidity, his previous threats or his damn guns. Twice he has confronted me wearing a gun.
         This will not end nicely, I am well aware of it.
         Sorry about his luck.

         

      If the Republicans will stop telling lies about the Democrats, we will stop telling the truth about them. Adlai E. Stevenson

      by teabaggerssuckbalz on Fri Jun 03, 2011 at 06:24:55 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  teabaggersuckbalz (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        whaddaya

        Sorry to hear about your experience, but I am pleased to hear that you are standing up to this guy. I'm convinced that is the only way to handle such bullies.

        Feel free to keep me posted on your situation. Neighbor problems/property disputes, etc. are a prime interest of mine.

        I wish you the best.

        •  Well thanks, Roger! It has been ongoing for about (0+ / 0-)

          3 years now but as luck would have it a sheriffs deputy moved in right next door to me yesterday. He is one of those who drives his patrol car home, so there it sits beside my house. A very intimidating obstacle for Mr. Asshole to contend with I am sure...

          If the Republicans will stop telling lies about the Democrats, we will stop telling the truth about them. Adlai E. Stevenson

          by teabaggerssuckbalz on Sun Jun 05, 2011 at 09:49:34 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Couldn't this easily be settled by offering a (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FishOutofWater, mint julep, whaddaya

    a shiny new mulching mower?

    When life gives you wingnuts, make wingnut butter!

    by antirove on Thu Jun 02, 2011 at 08:55:30 PM PDT

  •  I hate it when you hate your neighbor. (10+ / 0-)

    It's just not neighborly.

    I'll mercifully spare the background and get to the funny part.

    A couple of years ago my former neighbor, whom I hated, was shoveling snow from a recent snowstorm onto the spare parking space in front of my townhouse.

    Keep in mind, I'm responsible for clearing that. So he was in essence just making more work for me.

    I firmly, but politely tried to explain this to the man and he started screaming that I was "crazy."

    At that point I became crazy and started shoveling the snow back on the the area he'd cleared and he furiously shoveled it back.

    There we were, grown men shoveling the same snow back and forth.

    My neighbor's wife, whom I didn't hate because she was married to a complete asshole and spent a lot of time trying to fix his asshole doings, came out and took the shovel from him and helped me clear my space.

    No blood was shed, but I'll bet you my other neighbors got a big laugh out of it.

  •  I share a driveway with the house next door (11+ / 0-)

    There was someone who moved in who insisted on parking on his half of the driveway and thus blocking it for me unless I wanted to drive up over the curb and the yard.  You can't park on the street in front of the house, either, and they didn't like my knocking on their door to ask them to move their truck so I could pull into my garage (not accessible from behind the house through the alley).  In fact, they disliked my going to knock on the front door that they didn't answer it and I went away.  Then the police knocked on my door, having been called by my neighbors to head off a confrontation.  huh?  I was confused.  So was the cop.  Eventually they went away and there were signs on their door from the city water dept and the electric company stating the utilities were going to be turned off for lack of payment.  Before the next renters moved in, I had a sign made that states "Shared Driveway; do not park in driveway"
    and then the loveliest neighbors (Mexican immigrants) moved in and there have been no problems.  I want them to stay for ages.  

  •  Nobody likes a busybody n/t (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    whaddaya
  •  We have a jack-ass neighbor. (4+ / 0-)

    One day I heard my partner, usually the most mild-mannered person you could ever meet, screaming in the front yard with the f word prominent in his screaming.  I ran to find him in a run-in with the neighbor, an old teabagger curmudgeon stay-off-my-lawn Rush Limbaugh devotee.
    In the middle of the screaming match, an old neighbor who everyone called Crazy John ambled across the street and noticing the neighbor's pot belly said something like "By God, Art!  Are you pregnant?  Am I the father?"
    That bit of delicious banter did much to diffuse the situation for my partner, though it only pissed off the neighbor more.

    A camel can carry a lot of gold, but it still eats alfalfa.

    by oldliberal on Thu Jun 02, 2011 at 11:01:18 PM PDT

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