Slumlord Sentenced to Nine Months for Probation Offenses

Times Staff Writer

Slumlord Milton Avol, who made headlines last year when a judge ordered him to spend 30 days living in one of his downtown tenements, was sentenced Monday to nine months in County Jail for violating terms of his probation by allowing squalid conditions to persist at three of his buildings.

Avol, 63, a neurosurgeon from Beverly Hills, admitted May 6 that his properties at 1821 and 1839 S. Main St. and 1660 N. Western Ave. contained about 40 fire, health and Building and Safety Code violations, including broken windows, vermin and rodent infestations, cracked and peeling paint, unsafe electrical wiring and inoperable fire extinguishers and fire doors.

During a two-day hearing before Los Angeles Municipal Judge Marion L. Obera, Avol's attorney attempted to show that his client had spent nearly $322,000 and had hired two construction crews to correct the violations.

The judge said, however, that although Avol had improved conditions at the buildings somewhat, she believes he was merely trying to avoid a jail sentence.

"The pattern (of conduct) tells me that the defendant has not really made a serious effort to comply--except that if it appears that he's facing jail, then he feels compelled to do whatever he can," Obera said.

"Between 1983 and March of this year, I find that very little was done," the judge added. " . . . The defendant had plenty of notice and plenty of opportunity to correct the violations."

Obera stayed the jail term pending an appeal and said Avol would be given 120 days' credit if he is incarcerated on the earlier probation violation, which is being appealed.

Avol, described by the prosecutor, Deputy City Atty. Stephanie Sautner, as "the most recalcitrant slumlord in Los Angeles," was convicted in September, 1983, of code violations at 463 S. Bixel St. He was sentenced to three years' probation and ordered to obey all housing laws.

Violated Terms

Last year, Municipal Judge Veronica Simmons McBeth found that Avol had violated the terms of his probation, because of conditions at the two buildings on South Main. She sentenced Avol to 30 days in jail and 30 days under "house arrest" at the Bixel Street building.

However, Avol spent less than nine hours in custody in June, 1985, before being freed on $50,000 bail pending his appeal.

While conceding that his client had made "a lot of errors," defense attorney Donald H. Steier argued that in recent months, Avol had made "overwhelming" efforts to turn the Main Street buildings around.

Steier called witnesses who testified that the tenants were responsible for much of the squalor, and he played a videotape made July 5 depicting mounds of garbage littering the common hallways.

Several tenants testifying for the prosecution suggested that the videotape was staged. The tenants, whose testimony was translated from Spanish, said the hallways were clean when they left their apartments early that morning and that the huge quantity of refuse had suddenly materialized about two hours later.

Obera did not comment on the videotape, but she did complain that Avol had made only a "token effort" to rid his buildings of rats, mice and cockroaches.

Avol did not testify, but his wife Ann said from the witness stand that her husband is not a criminal.

"We're desperate to hire the right people," she said, her voice cracking with emotion.

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