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Newton Landlord Fined $15,000 For Allegedly Refusing To Rent To Black Tenants

By Jim Armstrong, WBZ-TV
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Commission Against Discrimination
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Jim Armstrong is an Emmy-award winning reporter who joined WBZ-TV in...
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NEWTON (CBS) – Newton landlord Alfred Defazio is adamant: he is no racist.

Though, he admits he has reservations about renting any of his apartments to African Americans.

Last week, the Massachusetts Commission on Discrimination ended a complicated, three-year battle between Defazio and Newton real estate broker Keisha Willis.

The Commission ended up fining Defazio $15,000 for allegedly telling Willis, who is African American, he wouldn’t rent to her or to other black tenants.

Investigators claim DeFazio said, “They party too much, make too much noise, and cost me too much money to kick out.”

WBZ-TV’s Jim Armstrong reports

“No, no. That’s not so; that’s a lie,” said Defazio.

He claims his statements have been misunderstood, taken out of context, or fabricated altogether.

“No, I did not say that,” offered Defazio when confronted with a written record of what he is alleged to have told Willis.

“I did not say that. I said I’ve had problems with [African American tenants]. I said, on the blacks, I had problems with them and I prefer not to have them. Those were my exact words.”

Catherine Ziehl, general counsel for the Massachusetts Commission on Discrimination, says even she was surprised by Defazio’s statements, which were also given under oath.

“We don’t usually see this kind of direct discrimination. Not only is it direct, he repeated it over and over again,” said Ziehl.

“His statements are particularly egregious, and a direct form of discrimination. And he repeated them not only to the broker but to our investigator.”

Defazio, who has rented out apartments in locations all over the state, says he has never been accused of such actions in the past.

“I don’t discriminate who I rent to; I’m renting to foreigners,” he explains.

“A lot of people won’t rent to foreigners but I rent to them.”

In addition to the fine, Defazio has been ordered not to make discriminatory statements when advertising his rental properties or to restrict rentals based on race.

He is appealing the ruling.

Willis says her lawyer has advised her not to give any interviews about the story at this time.

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