Georgia landlords evicted white woman for having black guests, ACLU lawsuit alleges

When reached by phone, one of the landlords said the woman was evicted because she had cats and was messy.

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By Elisha Fieldstadt

A couple in Georgia faces a lawsuit for allegedly evicting a white tenant over her having African American guests at her rented house.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed the suit Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Georgia's Northern District over Patricia and Allen McCoy's eviction of Victoria Sutton from the home she was renting in Bartow County, northwest of Atlanta.

Sutton had been renting the house in Adairsville for about a year when in September 2018 she started having an African American coworker and the coworker's son over for a play date with one of her daughters.

After one of the visits, Sutton hugged the coworker goodbye. Later that day, Allen McCoy knocked on her door, told Sutton she should be ashamed of herself for being a "n----- lover," threatened to call Child Protective Services and told Sutton she had two weeks to move out, the lawsuit says.

He told her he had evicted a previous tenant after she wanted to allow an African American man to move in, and said he would call the police if he saw the African American person on his property again, the lawsuit claims.

"Sutton pleaded with Mr. McCoy to allow her and her family to stay in the home, saying she had nowhere else to go. Mr. McCoy responded that she should have thought of that before she “brought that n----- around,” the lawsuit says. He then told her that if she really wanted to stay, she would have to convince his wife.

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Sutton later spoke with McCoy's wife, Patricia, on the phone, and recorded the conversation, according to the ACLU. The tenant told Patricia McCoy that she had the right to bring whomever she wanted onto the property she rented, and the landlord responded, "I don’t care … You just go ahead and get your a-- out … You ain’t got no rights on the property.”

"Maybe you like black dogs, but I don’t. So just get your stuff and get out," she added, according to the recording.

Sutton claims she always paid her rent on time and so she told Patricia McCoy she would take the matter to court, to which McCoy replied: “No you won’t, you won’t be able to because I’ll stomp the s--- out you before the day is out.”

During an eviction hearing Oct. 4, 2018, Patricia McCoy told a judge that Sutton had damaged the property, but Sutton presented photos that proved she hadn't, the lawsuit says. The judge ordered that the McCoys present Sutton with a written letter of intent for eviction, which would give her and her family two months to move out.

Sutton received the letter Oct. 16 and moved out in December. During the two-month interim, while Sutton was still moving her things out of the home, the McCoys went into the house and threw out everything that was still in there, including valuables and family memorabilia, the lawsuit alleges. The suit says Sutton feared for the safety of her family as she was trying to move them out of the house.

Sutton is suing for compensatory damages, including for emotional distress. The lawsuit claims that her 9-year-old daughter, who has learning disabilities, suffered from having to switch schools and "had difficulty receiving the specialized educational services she received at her prior school."

The ACLU said the McCoys, who own multiple rental properties, violated federal and state fair housing and civil rights laws.

"This case is a clear reminder that the pervasive and insidious racism that led to the passage of the Fair Housing Act more than 50 years ago persists to this day,” Brian Corman, an attorney representing Sutton said in a statement. “America thrives when people of all races and backgrounds are able to live in their communities without fear that they will be thrown out of their homes because of their race or the race of those with whom they associate.”

When reached by phone, Allen McCoy, 77, told NBC News that he evicted Sutton because she had cats in the house that she knew she wasn't supposed to have. He also said she was messy, but denied evicting her for having African American guests over.

When asked if he had hired an attorney, he said he had not. "I ain't got no lawyer. Hell, I ain't done nothing," McCoy said. "But I’ll get one if I have to."