NJ jury sides with landlord in Muslim discrimination case
ELIZABETH — A Union County jury dealt a blow against a discrimination lawsuit filed by the state against a city landlord, dismissing allegations that he refused to rent an apartment to a woman because she was Muslim.
State officials in the Christie administration filed the civil rights suit in 2016, claiming William Greda refused to rent an apartment to an undercover investigator who wore a headscarf over her head.
State officials investigated the 17-unit Maple Garden building after a Muslim woman claimed Greda refused to rent to her because she was a Muslim. Fatma Farghaly captured part of the confrontation on video, although the footage does not show him saying anything discriminatory.
When interviewed by News 12 New Jersey in 2016, Greda claimed he was being "extorted" by "Muslim extremists" and ISIS.
Greda's attorney, Vincent J. Sanzone Jr., said Friday that the jury deliberated for an hour after a five-day trial.
He said the jury rejected Farghaly’s claims that Greda refused to rent an apartment because of her Muslim faith, that he asked her whether she was a Muslim, and that he told her that he does not rent to Muslims.
The jury also rejected the claims by the state Division on Civil Rights that an undercover agent experienced gender discrimination because Greda told her that a flood-prone apartment might not be suited for a woman because a tenant might need to do heavy lifting in the event of flooding.
The court also dismissed the state's case against Greda's wife, Sanzone said.
"William Greda is grateful for the verdict because the allegations against him were false," Sanzone said Friday in a prepared statement. "Further, he is grateful to the jury that the nightmare is over and he wants his name to be cleared, because in over 40 years of being a landlord he has never discriminated against anyone in renting his small 17-unit apartment building."
A spokeswoman for the state Attorney General's Office said Saturday: "We respectfully disagree with the jury verdict and are looking into our legal options."
Under state law, it is illegal to refuse to rent, show or sell property based on race, creed, color, national origin, nationality, ancestry, marital status, domestic partnership or civil union status, familial status, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, sex, or mental and physical disability, including AIDS and HIV-related illness.
The law makes exceptions for landlords who live in a two-family unit or for a homeowner who rents rooms in their own home.
Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-359-5348 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.