Feds: landlord discriminates against African-American tenants

Feds: Landlord discriminates against African-American tenants (Reporter: Jon Erickson)

WASHINGTON - The United States Department of Justice has accused a local landlord of breaking federal housing law in the form of discriminating against African-American tenants.

William I. Cochran III owns or manages more than a dozen residences in Washington.

The DOJ filed a complaint last week, alleging that Cochran, among other things, verbally harassed African-American tenants with racial slurs and epithets, refused to perform or delayed performing maintenance on properties because the tenants are African-American, and threatened African-American tenants who requested maintenance or repairs.

NewsChannel 12 spoke with Cochran Wednesday outside one of the rental properties.  He denied the charges, and referred all questions to his lawyer.

"All of the allegations are absurd," Cochran's lawyer, Sonny McLawhorn, said.

McLawhorn said the DOJ hasn't provided any evidence to support the allegations against Cochran.

McLawhorn also detailed a previous complaint against Cochran investigated by North Carolina regulators; McLawhorn believes the person behind that complaint also made the tip that sparked the federal investigation.

Documents provided by McLawhorn show the state investigation concluded that Cochran did not engage in discriminatory behavior.

The documents could not be verified by the end of business.

A reporter on Wednesday went to a dozen of the rental properties Cochran either owns or manages.

The tenants had mixed reviews for Cochran.

Some said he's perfectly reasonable and have had no issues.

Others cited delays after submitting maintenance requests.

None of the tenants would speak on camera, out of fear of retaliation.

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