A Huntington Beach resident was sentenced Tuesday to 15 days in County Jail for operating what a deputy district attorney said was slum housing in Bell.
Gary Garth Robinson, 53, received the jail term as part of a suspended 150-day sentence imposed by Los Angeles County Municipal Judge Porter deDubovay. As part of the sentence, Robinson also was placed on three years' probation and fined $1,700.
Robinson was convicted by a jury Dec. 3 for eight violations of the county health code at six bungalows he owns at 6815 California Ave.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Philip C. Wodjak told the court that the housing was infested with roaches and flies and had leaky plumbing, rotting floors and slime-covered walls. The buildings, which are no longer inhabited, were contaminated by a 30-foot-wide pool of raw sewage, Wodjak said.
In imposing the sentence, the judge said Robinson had a "bad track record" as a landlord, having been convicted of similar health code violations for dwellings he owns in South Gate. DeDubovay said the sentence is an attempt to "convince Mr. Robinson that if he's going to assume the responsibilities of being a landlord, he's got to conduct that business in a lawful manner."
Begins Term Jan. 31
Robinson, who sat calmly during the sentencing, avoided the press outside the courtroom and could not be reached for comment. He is to begin serving his jail term Jan. 31.
Robinson's lawyer, Gerald P. Williams of Los Angeles, who accompanied Robinson to the sentencing, also could not be reached for comment after the sentencing.
Wodjak said he "was very happy to see the judge has taken this seriously enough to give the defendant the jail time he deserves." Wodjak said that the condition of Robinson's property was deplorable and that tenants lived in a "rat and roach farm."
During court proceedings, Williams told the judge that his client had corrected the problems at his Bell property by evicting tenants and boarding up the buildings. He also said that Robinson planned to demolish the buildings as requested by the county Health Department, but demolition had been delayed because Robinson was worried that the value of the property, which is for sale, might decline.
Wodjak responded that Robinson had told the Health Department in March that he was planning to tear down the buildings within a week, but he subsequently moved in new tenants before the bungalows were closed in April.
According to trial testimony, Robinson also delayed Health Department inspection of a unit by threatening a tenant with eviction if she allowed inspectors into her home, Wodjak said.
"He (Robinson) was a slippery, fast-talking guy who thought he could talk his way out of it," Wodjak said.
The health code violations Robinson was convicted of were for infestations of cockroaches, flies and rats. He also was cited for allowing raw sewage to be dumped on the property and for not providing trash cans or properly fitting window screens, Wodjak said.
One of the tenants who lived in Robinson's property in Bell last year was Socorro Cocolan, 38, a mother of 10 children ages 1 to 19.
In an interview, Cocolan said she rented a two-bedroom bungalow for $450 a month. It had a toilet that leaked sewage, lacked a seat and lid, she said, adding that the there was a hole under the bathroom sink that "the rats came in and out of it like it was a door."
"I'm just glad I got out of there. It was very ugly and rotten and deteriorated. That place was only good to demolish and throw away. When we lived there we had to fix everything ourselves. We would ask the landlord, but he would never fix anything. He would just come and pick up the rent," she said in a telephone interview Wednesday.
Violations in South Gate
Besides the health code violations in Bell, Robinson also pleaded guilty in 1984 to four health code violations at an 11-bungalow housing complex in South Gate at 9819-9823 San Luis Ave. He was fined $1,020 and placed on three years' probation, said James Jaramillo, chief environmental health officer in the county's Huntington Park office.
In October, Robinson and his wife were fined a total of $1,700 for four additional health code violations at the same property and again he was placed on probation, Jaramillo said.
The property is to be reinspected this week. Any new violations will be reported to the district attorney, Jaramillo said.
Staff writer Carmen Valencia contributed to this story.